Superheroes are kind of a big deal on TV right now. Genre fans are currently truly spoiled for choice, with the likes of The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Heroes Reborn, Supergirl, Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, Daredevil, Jessica Jones and more giving us our weekly jollies. But those are of course all American productions (well, Canadian for some of them, but that’s a different story). So what about right here in Africa? Don’t we have our superheroes? Well, we do now! And no, I’m not talking about Captain Volt
Unveiled at DISCOP 2015 – the African film and television summit that took place in Sandton this past week – Jongo is an upcoming superhero genre show set right here in Johannesburg. It stars dancer/actor Pacou Mutombo as Eli King, a young man “who acquires an array of supernatural abilities after he finds an alien crystal in a cave at the “Cradle of Humankind.” As Eli tries to deal with the death of his father and sets out to find the men responsible, he must also grapple with the powers of the crystal and how it will indelibly alter the course of his life. What Eli doesn’t know is that the men he is hunting have crystals of their own and need Eli’s stone to fulfill an ancient and devastating prophecy, which will threaten the lives of millions.”
Check out the trailer (via IndieWire) below:
Okay, as much as I want to enjoy a locally produced superhero show, I need to be objective for a minute here. That looks… okay, I guess? There is definite potential for this to be good, but there are also some obvious pitfalls. And no, I’m not referring to the production values.
I certainly don’t expect a minor local TV production to match the flashy visuals found on something like the big-budget The Flash, and I am definitely not the type to get hung up on the clear low budget-ness of a show (hey, I’m the guy that wants Doctor Who to go back to it’s more lo-fi Russel T. Davies days!). In fact what I’m seeing here, from a visual effects perspective, actually looks much better than I expected.
My biggest problem is that the acting seems a tad amateurish – that voiceover from Mutombo is painful in places – and the story beats seem to be just mimicking bigger international shows.
I could be wrong though (and I really hope that I am!), and the actual show is much better than this preview hints at and at least brings a bit more African flavour into the current generic genre mix. At least that is what Jogno’s writer and director Gareth Crocker promised when he spoke to Screen Africa about the show, and revealed what his intentions were for it:
“We wanted to showcase the beauty and dynamism of the continent and of South Africa in particular. So many films and TV shows focus on the problems Africans face. Jongo will emphasise all that is positive about this great continent of ours. We knew from the outset that we wanted to do something quite different from the other shows currently on air in this genre… We wanted to ensure authenticity – to produce something that people can connect with… In casting, we specifically sought out people who are closely aligned to the characters we’ve written.”
Jongo has already been picked up for distribution by Discover Digital, e.tv and Ebony Life TV, and is scheduled to air its 8-episode first season sometime in early 2016. Are you intrigued enough to be watching it? While I have my reservations, as mentioned above, I’ll definitely be checking this out further.
Last Updated: November 17, 2015