April 26, 2005
Black Sushi, 2003
A newly paroled Zulu man named Zama walks out of prison and into a waiting car driven by his best friend and former accomplice, Respect, who immediately recruits him as a hired muscle for a planned heist. Eager to rebuild his life and make a clean break from his criminal past, Zama walks away from his friend and into a sushi bar to inquire about a help wanted sign posted on the store window. Working in the backroom as the restaurant's dishwasher and janitor, Zama is intrigued by the sushi chef, Mi's skill and presentation and asks the skeptical proprietor to teach him his trade. However, when Mi expresses his skepticism on Zama's worthiness to become his apprentice, the disillusioned young man begins to fall back into his familiar, self-destructive routines. Whimsical and lighthearted, Black Sushi is a clever and engaging parable on perseverance, rehabilitation, and enlightenment. In the film's climactic episode, Zama peels the layers of gluten paste that have coated his hands at work, symbolically sloughing off the coarse, hardened skin that represents (and has bounded him to) his past, transforming them into delicate instruments necessary for his new found craft. It is in this image of transformation and tabula rasa that filmmaker Dean Blumberg allegorically reflects the image of new South Africa, a nation moving forward from its grievous history through atonement, creativity, hard work, open-mindedness, and cross-cultural respect.