A new South African classic

2012-05-26 15:37

The team behind the award-winning film U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (a modern isiXhosa version of the classic opera) and Son of Man (a version of the Jesus story featuring only black actors) will be making a new film, this time based on Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme.

In the best South African movie news to emerge from the Cannes Film Festival this week, the international production company Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME) revealed that it has formed a long-term partnership with local theatre company Isango Ensemble.

The union will yield more films after La Boheme.

While the Khayelitsha-based theatre company’s director Mark Dornford-May and musical director Pauline Malefane (who also plays Mimi) opened their La Boheme – Abanxhaxi to critical success at the Hackney Empire theatre in London this week, F&ME were busy securing funding for the film version in France.

Dornford-May and Malefane have collaborated on the screen adaptation.

Taking time out from back-to-back meetings in Cannes, F&ME’s Mike Downey confirmed the deal and said: “We are delighted to be working with Isango again.

“Our experience working with them proves that it is possible to make quality entertainment in South Africa that is not afraid to grasp some of the burning issues of our time and is still able to become a commercial and artistic international success.”

He said that La Boheme – Abanxhaxi aims to do more than just entertain audiences; it has a social imperative, too. In the opera Mimi tragically dies from tuberculosis.

“The production is a unique partnership to fight Aids, tuberculosis and malaria,” said Downey.

“The striking and brutal realities of the everyday life of the poor, their struggle for food, shelter and medicine is contained within some of the most glorious operatic music ever composed.”

Although there are still deals to be signed, the collective hopes to roll cameras this year and to release the film in 2013.

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha received global attention when it was awarded the Golden Bear at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival.

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