Lola (1980)

A girl proves her smarts on and off the volleyball court in this rare South African gem re-released over three decades later.

Lola is a schoolgirl who loves two things. They are education and volleyball. She spends her time hanging with her friends on the court. She dreams of going to university after school, and her teacher is more than excited to tell them about the universities. She explains that going to university can be expensive and the class will have to consider all the options. Lola finds herself seriously considering going as it is her dream.

However, Billy, the captain of a rival team, thinks Lola will focus more on her studies should she attend university rather than her passion for volleyball. As a result, Billy and his friends mock and tease Lola and her friends. Lola decides to challenge Billy to a match to see if she can prove her theory right. Billy agrees and Lola, using her smarts, begins to study the game and along with her teammates and friends, prepare themselves to take on Billy and his team.

Another entry of Gravel Road’s Retro Afrika Bioscope, which focuses on Apartheid-era South African films catering to native Africans during that time, this sports drama has both its ups and downs. Directed by Tony Cunningham, one of many Afrikaner films who were more than happy to brings these films to the audiences, this volleyball film seems to be more than a typical sports film, but about a woman determined not to prove gender equality, but to prove one can both study and play sports without having to choose one over the other.

Constance Shangase has this natural charm about her in the titular role of Lola, the young woman who melds sports with education. Her friends are quite an eclectic bunch. Aside from their play on the court, it is clear this is a tight-knit group of friends determined to prove they are smarter than they think they can be. In one scene, they are seen watching and studying the movements of the game as an attempt to defeat Billy and his crew. The volleyball scenes are not choreographed but more like a going to park and watching the people play kind of deal and it works.

If there is one complaint about the film it is this. Usually when you see sports films end, they usually end with the big game and then maybe a celebration that lasts about five minutes if that, like an epilogue. However, perhaps as a way to stretch the running time, we have a celebratory and post-game scene that runs a good 20 minutes total. It does drag on for a final scene, but in some way, it is understandable because for a run time of 75 minutes it may seem needed. But it was a bit like…please just end the movie.

Lola is not a bad sports drama for its time and its intended audience. It does invoke a natural feel to things. However, a 20-minute post game finale seems more like a bore rather than bring enjoyment in the film.

WFG RATING: C

Gravel Road Entertainment presents a Tycoon Films production. Director: Tony Cunningham. Producer: Tony Cunningham. Writer: Tony Cunningham. Cinematography: Isaac Xaba. Editing: Tanya Logan and C. Butler.

Cast: Constance Shangase, Lucasta Baloi, Gerald Nzimande, Matthew Monika, Isaac Xaba, Nicholus Radebe, Christopher Makafeng, Happy Poulsen, Bona Moatse.

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