Good story? Check! Good costume design? Check, check!! Authentic? Check, check, check!!! Entertaining show? Check, check, check, check!!!! Energetic and great performances? Check, check, check check, check!!!!! That sums up Netflix’s “Jiva!”
From watching the musical drama “Sarafina!” back in the 1990s, one came to appreciate dance as a big part of the South African culture and a way of expression of the nation’s youth. “Sarafina!” revolves around ‘students involved in the Soweto Uprising, in opposition to the implementation of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in schools.’ And although the Netflix’s “Jiva!” shows the contrasting worlds of corrupt politicians who live in luxury homes with expensive vases and their girlfriends who come from slums in which their homes are made from corrugated zinc, and there is a protest against them, the lead character chooses a different one. Hers is a protest against her ex-boyfriend, Nanthi aka Makhekhe (Ntuthuzelo Grootboom).
Set in the coastal city of Durban in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa, Netflix’s “Jiva” tells the story of Ntombi (Noxolo Dlamini), a tour guide at the ushaka Marine World. She is tardy and always late to work – on most days she hardly has change for her bus fare. However, she has a love for dance. There is a lot of buzz around town calling for entries for the Jiva Loxion Competition – a street dance competition. Her friend Vuyiswa (Candice Modiselle) and uncle encourage her to sign-up but she refuses to, until Makhekhe shows up.
Makhekhe is the leader of the Soweto Cats and reigning champions of the Jiva Loxion Competition but Ntombi claims to have taught him how to dance, so she believes that he is living in her life. Leading up to the regional stage of the competition, he comes back to town feigns remorse. He apologises to Ntombi and tries to win her back but unknown to her it is all an act. Ntombi clearly still has feelings for him but Vuyiswa – who has more experience with men – ensures that Ntombi does fall for Makhekhe’s scheme.
Meanwhile, Ntombi’s brother Samu, for whom the family is putting aside their personal interests to raise funds for his university education, is more interested in fashion design. It is unfair that Ntombi has to sacrifice her dreams for Samu to achieve his or better yet, what his mother wants for him. But clearly, her mother has a favourite – she smiles as she says he would be ‘the first person to go to university in the family.’ Ntombi cannot seem to please her mother because she is a ‘dreamer like her father,’ so she has a decision to make.
Netflix’s “Jiva!” is truly riveting and the definition of bingeworthy! The first season has just five episodes that will leave you craving for more – Nigerian artiste, Davido, even gets a notable mention as does the Shoki dance move. Though the cast of “Jiva!” is largely unknown but they are phenomenal. Most of them must have a background in dance because learning those dance moves is no mean feat. The cast, choreographer and the filmmakers deserve much commendation.