Before I even knew it existed I had foreign friends living abroad messaging me about Netflix’s Blood and Water. This South African series is putting our stars and media creatives on the map. Here’s what we thought of it.
Caution: Mild spoilers ahead.
Blood and Water, only South Africa’s second Netflix original, has taken the world by storm. Hot on the heels of another local series, Queen Sono, Express, calls it part of Netflix’s “plans to expand into the African market and produce more content from the region”. This will be a welcome improvement for those of us living here, who have until now lacked representation on the streaming platform.
The six-part teen thriller series follows a young girl, Puleng Khumalo, as she obsessively tries to figure out if a girl she meets is the sister she’s never met. Puleng is played by the talented Ama Qamata who, unlike many American actors in similar roles, is a really convincing high school student despite being 21. Alongside Qamata is 20-year-old Khosi Ngema, who plays rich girl – and potential long-lost sister – Fikile “Fiks’’ Bhele. Unlike Qamata, who has previously held roles in My Perfect Family and Rhythm City, this is Ngema’s first role, and she knocked it out of the park.
The show also stars the gorgeous Thabang Molaba as Puleng’s love interest, KB, and Dillon Widvogel, who plays the role of the principal’s son Wade. Windvogel is, in my opinion, the most convincing actor of the lot, but the entire cast manages to pull off their roles extremely successfully, with an earnestness and finesse that, it can be argued, has been missing from a lot of South African productions. Not to mention the fact that it makes living in Cape Town seem super cool.
Indiwire’s reviewer, Tambey Obenson writes that Blood and Water has “Euphoria aspirations, but instead settles for the after school special-esque melodrama of Beverly Hills, 90210“, and that it “lacks bite”.
Admittedly, the plot is somewhat predictable and bordering on cliche, but it still manages to cover everything one looks for in the genre. There’s intrigue, romance, and more than a little suspense. It tops all this off my tackling a topic that often doesn’t receive a lot of recognition in South African media (which, granted, has a heck of a lot to deal with) – human trafficking.
In fact, for those who have been following local news, this drama will soundly oddly familiar. The story of a girl finding her long lost sister at school echoes the true story of Zephany Nurse (raised as Miché Solomon) who was abducted from the Cape Town hospital in which she was born when she was only three days old.
According to IOL, the Nurse family has since distanced itself from Blood and Water and its creators, saying “It’s not the Nurses’ story, we have no relations or connection to the movie called ‘Blood & Water’, it’s a nice try, well constructed, but not our story though.”
Inspiration for the story aside, Netflix’s Blood and Water is worth watching for its own merits. The series is Directed by Nosipho Dumisa, with Daryne Joshua and Travis Taute as co-directors and writers, and everything is pulled together with excellent editing and camera work. Though the story has a few dips where it starts to drag out a little, it’s an indication that South Africa is a worthy competitor on the film and television scene. It also finally projects a proudly African voice into the Netflix platform that has been missing for far too long.
For those who have lost faith in South African television, this may be the redemption song that’s needed.
Essential Millennial Rating: 4 out of 5 avocados