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“The Winning Ticket” Review: In Kganki Star Mphahlele’s Film, Familial Bond is the Winning Formula

“The Winning Ticket” Review: In Kganki Star Mphahlele’s Film, Familial Bond is the Winning Formula

Showmax's The Winning Ticket - Afrocritik

But the film’s divergence, which can be argued is no less unique,  is the family conflict wrapped around the titular winning ticket. 

By Seyi Lasisi 

In my recent review of Lufuno Nekhabambe’s directorial feature film, Musangwe, I mentioned how Showmax dedicates concerted efforts towards spotlighting African quotidian realities. The streaming platform does this by ensuring that films and TV series in its digital archive are delivered in the local languages. From South Africa  (Sotho, Venda, Afrikaans, Xhosa, Zulu), and Kenya (Swahili), to Nigerian films and TV series (Yoruba, Hausa,  Igbo), indigenous languages dominate the characters’ dialogues. While this language choice doesn’t account for the depth and artistry of the filmmakers involved in the productions,  it does, to a degree, enhance the film’s verisimilitude. 

Written by Caroline Kganyago and directed by Kganki Star Mphahlele, The Winning Ticket is woven around the story of a struggling family of four. Thabang (Lerato Makheth), the husband, works at an unnamed scrapyard, Zanele (Simphiwe Ngema), his wife, owns a modest restaurant, and Ayanda (Amina Jack) and Moremi (Quinton Madlala) are their children. Despite their seeming financial struggles, they ensure that they are attentive to each other’s emotional demands, and that love is always at the frontline. Thus, they still accept each other, despite the lack of recreational activities for the children, or that Thabang’s car with mechanical issues cannot be replaced, or that there are sparse resources available to expand Zanele’s restaurant business. Their financial hurdle seems irrelevant.  Zanele is often drawn towards helping underserved community members with food and money, and through divine circumstances — no less motivated by Zanele’s philanthropy — the family’s financial storm is set at bay when they win a 21 million rand lottery jackpot. Now, with unlimited access to money, one will presume the family will live happily ever after. But it is only the beginning of their problem. 

There is an unavoidable air of familiarity as I watch Mphahlele’s film. As the family struggles with finding alternative ways to assuage their distressing financial burden and learn to settle into their new lives and its accompanying challenges,  I could have sworn I have seen variations of this movie countless times — a struggling family comes into unexplainable financial comfort and needs to prioritise family bonds over external issues is a common trope in family drama. The Winning Ticket settles into this trope with earnest loyalty. But the film’s divergence, which can be argued is no less unique,  is the family conflict wrapped around the titular winning formula.  

Stills from The Winning Ticket - Afrocritik
Stills from The Winning Ticket

Stills from The Winning Ticket - Afrocritik

The Winning Ticket 2024 Simphiwe Ngema 1240x654 1 jpg

An axiom The Winning Ticket instils into the audience’s consciousness is that not all that glitter is gold. As the family settles into a life of financial comfort  — with noticeable changes in their culinary taste, fashion choices, and spending habits with more fancy trips and holidays — a different problem surfaces. Thabang now has multiple investors to either pitch to or satisfy, Zanele, with new friends to impress, and Moremi and Ayanda struggling with the teenagehood burden. The family bond begins to dissipate. What once held the family’s garment together; quality times, harmless banter, gradually fades into oblivion. A question worth asking at this point: Does access to money inject people with less enthusiasm to have quality time with their family? 

Kganyago’s script establishes the film’s intention, and the didactic tone is well-written into the plot. In The Winning Ticket,  the overarching subjects are the need for strategic planning and money management, placing family first, and the need to embrace philanthropyAn additional subject matter — a working-class family which finds itself amidst unexplainable wealth —  gives the film a more political and social tone.  There are written and unwritten societal expectations from people who belong to different social strata. Working-class citizens are expected to be humble, middle-class citizens,  if they really exist, are expected to have attitudes that show how partially wealthy and in the middle they are,  and the wealthy citizens,  who securely sit at the top, are mostly expected to be ruthless and have “exclusive” taste. When Thabang and Zanele’s family become wealthy they struggle with picking and nurturing new attitudes and habits that conform with their new status. Thus, even when there’s no immediate threat to leave their loving neighbourhood nor is there an imminent need for any of the family members to go on expensive trips, the family falls into these unwritten societal expectations. 

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Zanele and by extension, her family’s treatment as an interloper by her high-class frenemy is an indication of society’s scorn for working-class families whose fortune changes. The scorn and disdain also have their roots in the elite covert desire to monopolise wealth and its accoutrements for themselves. While the film isn’t a political treatise and might not tether into discussions around oppression or ostracising working-class citizens from supposed “exclusive” spaces, aspects of the film have political undertones. This reiterates how, unmindful of filmmakers’ creative and artistic intentions, films and TV series can lend themselves to multiple interpretations. 

Rating: 2.5/5

(The Winning Ticket is currently streaming on Showmax)

Seyi Lasisi is a Nigerian creative with an obsessive interest in Nigerian and African films as an art form. His film criticism aspires to engage the subtle and obvious politics, sentiments, and opinions of the filmmaker to see how they align with reality. He tweets @SeyiVortex. Email: seyi.lasisi@afrocritik.com. 

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