In the 1980s Mokae came with some of his best roles in films, particularly The Serpent and the Rainbow and A Dry White Season.
Directed by Michael Ritchie in 1980, starring Michael Caine. A Peter Benchley (Jaws) story about pirates, very poor. The pirates live away from the rest of the world, and Caine ends up forcibly married to a pirate woman. Mokae has a short role as a policeman. When Caine´s plane crashes, Mokae cycles up and insists on collecting the landing tax.
Richard Attenborough directs the film about Steve Biko in 1988. The riot scenes are magnificently and hauntingly filmed, and Denzel Washington plays Biko with deep intelligence. A major flaw of the film is that despite its subject (Biko) Attenborough concentrates on the white perspective. Mokae guides Kline to the border (both disguised as church ministers).
Voodoo and commerce as an industrial researcher investigates zombies and falls into the hands of the police headed by Zakes Mokae. 1988. Directed by Wes Craven. Mokae´s sadistic voodoo policeman is superb. His best horror role.
Even back in America his presence is there, a hand slowly disappearing under the soup during a dinner party.
Directed by Thom Eberhardt in 1989. Also called A Cut Above. A medical student comedy with four students working together on the same corpse for a year. A predictable story- the first time they have to cut open a body, the long hours of study, the student being expelled, falling in love- but it is a pleasant comedy.
Joe Slovak (Matthew Modine- he was in Full Metal Jacket) comes from a poor family and want to be a doctor to earn lots of money. His father is a fisherman and the boat, The Good Life, sums up Joe's attitude to life.
Laurie (Daphne Zuniga) is a fellow student and of course they end up together.
Mokae is Dr. Banumbra of the anatomy lab, initially as awesome as the bodies on the tables.
Janet Muslin in the New York Times (20 Oct 2019 link) writes "Despite its less than promising title and its occasional stock touches, ''Gross Anatomy'' is a mostly funny and engaging look at Joe's first med-school year. Its focus is the anatomy lab, where Zakes Mokae, in a smallish role as one of Joe's teachers, presides with fiendish glee."
Directed by Euzham Palcy (one of the few women directors) in 1989 of an Andre Brink novel starring Donald Sutherland and Marlon Brando. Brando so liked the film he agreed to appear for the minimum acting wage.
Fugard veterans Winston Ntshona and John Kani also appear. Jürgen Prochnow (Das Boot) is menacing as Captain Stolz.
Injustice in South Africa as Sutherland the white liberal realises the realities of apartheid in South Africa as he seeks information about the death of his gardener's son. Sutherland is at his peak as the white liberal confronted with the ruthless violence of the system, Brando is on form as the lawyer for the defence and Mokae is sublime with exceptional acting.
Directed ny Gary David Goldberg with Jack Lemmon and Kevin Spacey in a relatively small role. 1989. A sentimental film with the father approaching death and the son realises how he has neglected his father and his own son, and builds up the family again. One scene shows the grandfather bound to his wheelchair like a prisoner, which leads to the dad/son carrying him out the hospital. Mokae is the sympathetic Dr Chad who realises how impersonal hospitals can be. Mokae later worked with Spacey on Outbreak.
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