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A glorious film-festival



Last week I honoured an invitation to attend the European Film Festival South Africa-Lesotho that lasted three days at the Alliance Francaise in Maseru.

The festival opened with the screening of “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection” directed by one award winning Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese.

It is set in the beautiful village, Nazareth, situated at the foothills of Thabana-li-’Mele in Lesotho. It depicts the significance of land (ancestral land) and cultural beliefs in Basotho.

It also demonstrates the power one woman possesses in a community teemed with people who are blinded by poverty. ‘Mantoa, played by the late Mary Kuksie Twala, lost her husband, daughter and granddaughter and now the movie begins with the tragic death of her son who worked in the mines of South Africa.

Death has patronised her house so many times that she has grown obsessed with joining her family because there’s nothing left to live for.

When the minister comes to bring some developments to her village, she objects because this is the only home she’s ever known. Her roots are buried deep in the core of this land and exhumation (which shall allow for the construction of the dam) is a slur to the dead.

After raising a few important traditional aspects that run in the blood of her people she has back up and the majority of her people now oppose being moved to a different village of settlement.

But sometimes when persuasion doesn’t move people politicians resort to violence to accomplish their mission.

A young boy, Lasarose is shot dead during a letsema (community work) and you read it on Mantoa’s face that she’s green-eyed with jealousy because once again she missed her chance of dying.

The shooting does scare them off and the moving initiates.

Somewhere along the way, ‘Mantoa changes her mind. The thought of leaving behind her land and graves of her loved ones possess her and she’s suddenly bursting with enough power and strength to face the rivals trying to drive them out of their village.

Because they are armed, probably with a motive to kill, she strips naked and walks in their direction. A naked body possesses so much power; it can either make you or break you.

But we are left in suspense because the curtains close with a naked woman and shouting armed men.

Ababou (played by Nancy Mensa Offei), a Ghananian actress in “As Far as I Can Walk”, a Serbian film by award winning director Stefan Arsenijevic, uses her naked body to seduce Ali, a Seryan man so she can attain legal papers with the Seryan Immigrants office that shall allow her to travel to England.

Ababou is married to an aspiring professional footballer, Samita (played by Brahim Koma) who walks all the way from Belgrade to look for a woman he loves, Abbi.

As African migrants, their identity, tradition and race are very much questioned and this leaves them with no other option but to volunteer for the Red Cross and this allows them to move in between all the refugee homes. Driven by love, Samita risks all his chances of finally acquiring the papers he has long waited for by crossing into a foreign land.

He finds her, but she has already broken her vow of staying loyal and supporting her husband through everything that may be thrown at them.

Ababou is no longer the woman he married, she has totally changed and so Samita leaves her behind to start a new life all alone because the only love he has ever known chose her aspirations, her love of becoming an actress over him.

And the love of journalism brings France de Meurs in “France” face-to-face with the devil when she decides to quit TV and goes for therapy in a resort that is frequented by celebrities to recharge their lives. Here she meets a man that poses as a Latin teacher and pretends to not have an idea who she is.

She falls in love with him and lets her in her life because she doesn’t get along with her husband. Little does she know she is sleeping with an enemy that’s on an assignment to investigate her to write an expose article on her life.

It’s a catastrophic moment in her life when she finds out about the article and loses her child and husband in a horrific accident. She is powerful and intimidates even the most powerful politicians.
She is called “useful but pretty” which translates to “useful but dumb” by patriarchal men who doubt the strength of independent strong women.

These three films, besides “Supa Modo” (a movie about a little superhero who grows in a supportive village of Maweni battling a terminal illness), “The Man Who Sold His Skin” (a man who allows for his back to be used as a canvas for a tattoo artist to tell a story about freedom and human dignity ) “Liyani” (a story of an orphaned girl told by orphaned Swazi children ) and “Oskar & Lilian —

Where No-One Knows Us” (Chechen refugee children whose lives are filled with hope and love of living together again after being taken into foster care) that were also screened at the festival have three elements that make them connect in one way or another; love, patience and determination.

This festival and the screenplays showed me that film production and distribution can be used as a valuable cultural and economic resource. It can trigger a demand for tourism, health services and local labour which would really boost the economy.

Our talents as black kids are not taken advantage of because nobody wants to pay. We need the government’s support to showcase our skills in film production and display the beauty that is buried in the Mountain Kingdom through film production.

And as Stefan Arsenijevic said, to make your production outstanding, “think locally, but produce globally”.

Bokang Masasa

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