Seen at the Berlinale 2017, where it was part of the Panorama section. After reading the synopsis about three people going to Johannesburg, or Joburg for short, none of them prepared for what to find there, we can expect sort of a mystery tour through the city.
Better still: we get three such tours, a few times crossing each other’s paths, while following three people (four, as one has a little girl with her). Their respective backgrounds as well as their mission in Joburg are shown to us in some introductory scenes, demonstrating most of all their unpreparedness for their tasks ahead.
In the seemingly lawless parts of the city, it looks very well as if our protagonists are all doomed to end nastily, or at best to return “tail between legs” healthy but missions unfulfilled. They are going downhill from the start, and get deeper in trouble with every step. The world where they come from, is very different from what they find here in Joburg, where survival of the fittest is the norm.
In short, the very opposite of the “one for all, all for one” principle. Initially they don’t see their problematic situation yet, and trust the people they meet as they are used to do where they came from. Important in this context is to note that, the whole movie long, there is no sight of any authority, police force, or anything else that can enforce laws and other rules of engagement.
All in all, an interesting sightseeing tour, not so much for the architecture but rather the people living there and how they interact, most of the time self-serving their own interests, yet a few times helping each other but not as a matter of course. The screenplay is well designed, even the man in the phone booth who we see appear a few times in the beginning, despite his initial defiant attitude, gets an important and positive role in the end. Finally, two small facts I learned from the Q&A.
A lot of stories are combined in this movie, so “based on true stories” is true but it is not possible to provide for a solid reference to one book or some such. The title Vaya translates to: Go Away.