TIFF 2023: The Umbrella Men: Escape from Robben Island

Directed by: John Barker 
Distributed by: TBD

Written by Alexander Reams


The year 2022 in film was full of wonderful surprises, and the gold standard was the comedy/heist picture “The Umbrella Men,” a smart and quite lovely film that I find stands with the best of the genre. So naturally when a sequel (that I wasn’t even aware existed) was announced my excitement to see these characters again was vast. Luckily “The Umbrella Men” avoids the pitfalls of so many comedy and heist genre sequels and creates a demand for even more adventures with these characters.

The tongue-in-cheek nature of the first “Umbrella Men” film immediately continues in a hilarious recap of the film from a choir of men that quickly transition into the South African roots that inspired the first, and now “The Umbrella Men: Escape from Robben Island.” The party that is shown through the opening credits and the lead-in to our reunion with our heroes, Jerome (Jacques De Silva) and Morty (Keenan Arrison). The reunion and happiness is short-lived as the infamous “Robben Island” is re-opened, and just in time for Jerome and Morty to get arrested and sent there for holding. 

John Barker returns to direct and his continued passion and love for this community and these people is as evident as his direction in the first. He opens and closes both films with music and celebration native to South Africa which makes these films showcases for the country as much as the creative voices. While ultimately the film does falter through its second act with a shifted focus on Keisha (Shamilla Miller) and her own story that ultimately leads to nothing, it maintains the energy that flowed through “The Umbrella Men” and its sequel’s first act.  “The Umbrella Men: Escape From Robben Island” is definitely the surprise sequel of 2023, but indeed a welcome one.

You can connect with Alexander on his social media profiles: InstagramLetterboxd, and Twitter. Or see more of his work on his website.

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