Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema

In this essay, I will be critically elaborating on the theme of the chosen production, the relevance of the South African cultural point of view of Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema and how the theme links with the cultural point of view, this essay will also distinguish between realism, expressionism and symbolic treatments and will also discuss one of above of the chosen production through one aspect of the narrative, one aspect of performance, one use of medium and one use of aesthetics.

This essay will consist of multiple paragraphs that elaborate with reasoning and evidence to back up the arguments.

Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema is a South African film that is about a hoodlum, Lucky Kunene, who becomes a petty crook at a young age judging by the circumstances at home, but also builds an empire by hijacking buildings and becomes a real estate mogul after the apartheid era, but Kunene faces challenges with drug lords seeking war with Kunene for not wanting to cooperate with their business and the police wanting to bring Kunene down (N.

A, N.D).

The themes of Jerusalema are friendship, poverty, crime, race, survival, life, corruption, death, trust, war, greed, revolution, religion, revenge, war, wealth, power and justice. Judging by the setting of the production which is the post-apartheid era in a township, where people who came from a previously disadvantaged background were given freedom and had to find themselves, the one theme that drives the production is crime and hustling for survival because the protagonist comes from a previously disadvantaged background, Kunene and friend began their hustle by selling delights to the public, washing minibus taxis and vehicles and Kunene is now forced to find other means of balancing school and private life through crime, there is a scene where we see Kunene and friend trying to elevate their hustle by becoming one of the hijacking kingpins all in the name of Kunene needing capital to further Kunene’s studies in university and in the beginning, Kunene and friend were slightly unsuccessful because none of them could drive a car and they both ended up asking the man they were allegedly robbing to teach them how to drive a vehicle and once they got used of driving a vehicle (Jerusalema, 2015), the rest was history meaning Kunene and friend eventually became the hijack kings and from there, things elevated, they went on to doing heists and robbing banks but eventually never went to further his studies.

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A South African cultural point of view in this context basically means the way of living which in this context it basically means that people who came from previously disadvantaged group are still trying to find themselves basically trying to escape poverty by going to university and finding a job just to survive, some people have dreams that they want to pursue but cannot exactly pursue that dream because they cannot afford to pay tuition fees so they end up finding piece jobs just to survive and provide for their family and some end up resorting to crime because they cannot find something stable to survive because we as humans are not gifted the same way just like the protagonist in the chosen production, although the minority still get degrees and finding what seems to be a “stable” job, they are still not elevating/growing as per se because some people are still entitled to black tax which makes it hard to escape the poverty and become part of the one percent. According to Mail and Guardian, “Black tax” refers to the extra money that black professionals are coughing up every month to support their extended families (Ratlebjane, 2015).

Another thing that contributes to poverty is inequality in a workplace in South Africa seeing that South Africa is one of the most unequal country after twenty-five years of freedom in the world according to the World Bank (N.A, N.D). The inequality refers to the divide in terms of wages where we find people who were previously disadvantaged are earning minimum wages and owning fewer assets or finding that that a person may have to train and mentor a new recruit who maybe earning much more than the person who is being mentored and trained and who might just get a promotion few years down the line knowing exactly the trainer is a person with experience and is the better candidate for the vacancy be that as it may life has its on ups and downs, in a nutshell and in my understanding, the South African cultural point of view is the way of life within the borders of the country.

Expressionism is known as one of the basic modes of discerning what the naked sees and what it represents (N.A, N.D). According to Stuart Hall, “representation is the production of the meaning of the concepts in our mind through language. Thus, the link between concepts and language enables us to refer or to symbolise either the real world of objects, people or events, or to imaginary worlds of fictional objects, people, events” (Sherpa, 2019) and realism is known as “a style which creates the illusion or effect of reality, of being a “slice of life,” without any

changes in or any manipulation of everyday life below” (N.A, N.D), I will be elaborating on the use of expressionism, realism, and symbolism by using the components.


The function of the Narrative is to tell a story to the public/audience by compiling a series of events that can engage the audience. The narrative of Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema is made to expose the empty promises of the new South Africa that is currently running against the tide by having to make choices that are really beyond all in the name of fighting for survival and of what was actually promised to the people who were previously disadvantaged back when the country was declared freedom and again the narrative was made to represent/show the real world of crime and how the real criminal master minds judging by the language the characters speak and dress within the story

The performance of this production of this particular scene makes it look realistic in a sense that the emotions and reactions the characters portray seems genuine and it seems like there are less mistakes as we can see Kunene and friend are on a mission to make things happen for themselves so we can see in the beginning that Kunene and friend are nervous when they meet the gun salesman at the hostel judging by how Kunene speaks on the cell phone with his “boss” Kunene and felt more comfortable and nervous after having fulfilled the mission that was assigned to him judging by how Kunene spoke with the boss and Kunene being nervous because he sees that the boss is superior judging by how the boss speaks to them and when Kunene moves backwards when the boss approaches him (MLA SA, 2015).


Aesthetics refers to objects that can be perceived by the human senses (Kul-Want, 2007:6).

The aesthetics of this particular scene include bunker beds and lockers, guns, vehicles, clothes, cell phone, land and the mark/dent on the pickup car. The representation of the bunker beds and the lockers gives the audience the setting of the scene as we can see Kunene and friend are in a hostel and hostels are associated to society with it being a lawless place and when we look at what the characters clothing illustrate the kind of attire most people in townships would wear and it also represents the township culture, which represents the characters to be looking like dodgy people. The representation of the guns illustrates that something dodgy is about to happen which the audience can tell when Kunene receives a phone call from the boss and that gives hints as to what is going to be happening next then we see Kunene and friend making delivery of what was demanded from the phone call but the delivery had a mark/dent which represents that Kunene was nervous and it was the first time he drove a car in his life and they struggled to get the package delivered. The representation of the land shows the audience that the meeting between Kunene and the boss is discreet showing that something bad has been done and they do not want to be seen by anyone who can jeopardise their mission (MLA SA, 2015).


A medium is a form of telling a story through semiotics that brings meaning or to communicate with audience or discourse meaning the process of making a film using by reproducing reality and bringing meaning to the story (Hayward, 2013:109) through camera, lighting, sound, editing, and staging. The Director of Photography uses a mid-two shot to focus on Kunene and friend so that we can see that they are close friends and that they are together and the Director of Photography uses another two-shot to establish the boss is with company, someone who with the boss and the uses a close-up of the boss to show the audience exactly who is speaking and to listen to the demands of the boss then the shot changes to a long shot to show the setting of the scene. The lighting of the first part of the scene has that soft feel and creates a young silhouette to show the setting of the scene is a place of darkness then it switches to it being light towards the end of the scene to show that the job was a success. The dialogue between characters in the scene is diegetic because the audience can hear the dialogue loud and clear whereas the score in the background is non-diegetic because the score is used to add emotion of the scene and the score in the beginning seems to be low to show that something bad is about to happen and is there to make the audience anxious as to what is going to happen next then the score in the end of the scene has that fun feel to show that the job was a success and that they managed to prove the boss wrong by pulling the job off.

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Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema. (2019, Nov 21). Retrieved from

Gangster’s Paradise: Jerusalema
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