Sodium Day

In a comedy-drama with tragic undertones, Sodium Day tells the story of a neglected Matric class in a dilapidated school on the Cape Flats. In the space of a single day, we witness how they navigate their way through absent teachers, racial tensions, a fellow student gone missing, and the threat of local gangsters. Written and directed the award winning Riaz Solker, the film, that features uncanny humour and absurd, but often true-to-life scenarios, will release in cinemas nationwide on Friday 22 April 2022.

The day abruptly begins with three pupils setting off an explosion with a chunk of sodium they stole from the science lab, much to the aggravation of their overwhelmed Headmaster. The rebellious students are from Grade 12Y of John Shelby High School – the only class doing Mathematics at a Matric level. However, they do not currently have a maths teacher and it is already September. Six woefully unqualified temps have already come and gone during the year, leaving the learners hopelessly unprepared for the final exam, which is mere weeks away. The class largely consists of disenfranchised and students, and the latent racism that still exists in this environment often bubbles to the surface.

A newly qualified white substitute teacher, bright-eyed and unsuspecting, is thrust into the class of 12Y to teach maths, despite the fact that he arrived to teach History and English. As he fumbles his way through class, the mischievous and petulant nature of 12Y is revealed.

The day is further complicated by the arrival of a teacher and a group of students from a rich, upper-class private school, whose day-long visit is part of a cultural exchange programme that no-one at the school was expecting. Consequently, they are shunted around from class to class by jaded, burnt out teachers who don’t welcome interlopers in their classrooms, until they land up at 12Y – since the substitute teacher doesn’t know any better. With such a stark contrast in backgrounds, it isn’t long before a clash of approaches, cultures and personalities ensues.

Unbeknownst to the visitors, the mood of 12Y is under particular strain on this day. One of their peers, Simone, didn’t show up at school, and there is a rumour going around that a dead body that fits her description was found on a field close to where she lives. There is also a local gangster circling the school, who is looking to settle a score with one of the learners of 12Y, whom he mistakenly believes slept with his girlfriend.

All of these ingredients combine to create Sodium Day: a day that started with a literal explosion and ends with a different kind of eruption – one coming from a volatile mix of racism, culture clash, gangster invasion, and the impending bad news about Simone, as the last strained strands of the youthful innocence and optimism of 12Y are put to the test.

“Sodium Day shines a spotlight on South Africa’s education system,” said Benjamin Cowley, CEO Gravel Road Distribution Group. “By Incorporating themes of inequality, educational difficulty, youthful ambitions, gang culture, and more, it peels back the curtain to show the complex realities faced by many learners in South Africa today,” he added.