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Toronto International Film Festival’s ‘The Umbrella Men’ is a bank heist and so much more

A ragtag bunch of musicians are forced to rob a bank during the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival in the hope they will save their iconic, but in debt, nightclub in the Bo Kaap


Carnival is a time of celebration, music, and culture. In Cape Town, South Africa, like most colonized regions in the world that celebrate the festival, the root of the event goes all the way back to the history of slavery. In John Barker’s engaging comedic caper, “The Umbrella Men,” history, culture, and crime intersect in amusing ways.

“The Umbrella Men” Is a delightful film about a bank heist that isn’t as easy as first imagined, with a quirky cast of characters involved in one aspect or another. There’s s fisherman, a pawn shop owner, a top General whose address is prison and a real estate representative.

Incidentally, colonialism and blood diamonds taken in South Africa figure into this film by John Barker that meld together history, crime, the culture of the South African carnival and lots of comedy set amid brilliant and eye-popping cinematography.

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TARIQ PLAYED, BY Abduragman Adams, manages his empire.

“The Umbrella Men” draws inspiration and comparisons to critical and audience favorites in this incredible ensemble genre including: “The LadyKillers,” “Set if Off,” “The Inside Man,” “Sexy Beast,” “The Italian Job,” and “Ocean’s Eleven,” among others. It’s an incredible ride, embracing the best of caper heist comedy set in the colorful and culture-rich Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town. “The Umbrella Men” is a must-see TIFF film.

The film has received excellent reviews at home in South Africa. For example, The Sunday Times (South Africa) wrote that “through the ‘Afrikaaps’ phrases, nuances and humour, Barker has beautifully captured a marginalised and often misrepresented culture.”

The story begins with the death of Gershwin Adams, who has led the Umbrella Men for 30 years. His son, Jerome (Jaques De Silva) comes home from Johannesburg to attend the funeral. But his plans to hurriedly return to his life in JBurg are derailed when he learns that the Goema Club, where the band rehearses and what also serves as a community center and shelter for newly released prisoners, is threatened to be foreclosed upon.

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A CAST OF characters inside the bank vault.

He must find one million rand in two weeks in order to keep the club and fortify his father’s legacy.

There are many sketchy players who work against Jerome and his best buddy, recently released prisoner Mortimer (Keenan Arrison). But Mortimer knows a friend who knows a friend, etc. And lucky for Jerome, he cozies up to a beautiful bank employee, Keisha (Shamilla Miller), who turns out to be an ally. The plan is to rob her bank that is holding outrageous loans due, which were taken out by the elder Adams.

Jerome doesn’t want to be involved in the umbrella men, a prominent troupe of musicians in Cape Town, but the evil acts of those who are trying to take the club away from his Auntie “V” upsets him into submission. It turns out that Tariq (Abduragman Adams), the elder Adams’ adversary and rival band leader, has been up to no good and has also been involved in the gentrification of the area. So, Jerome’s only option is to beat Tariq out of the club before it goes into foreclosure.

“The Umbrella Men” is a rousing film filled with determination and plenty of enlightened music, and one that also serves as a great history lesson. Look for it in theatres. Take a look at the trailer:

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