Urban African cinema

2014-05-04 15:00

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African Metropolis is a groundbreaking collection of six short films from a new school of urban African film makers. Charl Blignaut rates the shorts on the indie circuits

The short film is back. It has become a trampoline into the big time for a new wave of African film makers emerging from music videos, web ­movies and online documentaries. It’s a kind of business card.

“The new film makers in Africa have different issues to what their parents had. They have grown up in the cities and are more tuned in to a global film language,” says producer Steven Markovitz of ­African Metropolis, a collection of shorts from six African countries.

He paired the new talent with established producers. Among them are one or two directors who are destined to move on to feature-length films.

MINI REVIEWS: African Metropolis

To Repel Ghosts

Philippe Lacôte, Côte d’Ivoire

During a visit to Abidjan, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat comes face to face with death. I hear festival selectors love this one. Basquiat, the pioneering street artist is back in the public imagination.

Some powerful scenes highlight the subversion of placing an American pop icon in Africa. Personally? Meh. A vague film with grand nostalgia and a questionable accent from the lead.

The Cave

Ahmed Ghoneimy, Egypt

Adham travels to Cairo to pursue his musical career while trying to escape his debt to a life of petty thievery.

Yes, please. Ghoneimy is able to suggest a much larger story through his narrative of a frustrated musician who has made dodgy deals to get by and now bonds with a male friend.

A tenacious exploration of Egyptian masculinity and of the role of the artist in modern Egypt. No obvious revolutions, but plenty of internal ones. Feature please.

The Other Woman

Marie Ka, Senegal

A housewife in her 50s discovers herself when she accepts her husband’s second wife into their home. The other woman is her other woman, not his. She’s the new wife who forms a sexual bond with the elder wife of a polygamous man in the city.

It’s sumptuous, bouncing off the visual palette of grand Senegalese film. It offers no political position against polygamy, in its place is a searing, traditional love story of the kindness of women and the comfort of strangers.

Berea

Vincent Moloi, South Africa

Aging Jewish man in Hillbrow regularly meets a prostitute. Today a different woman arrives. The world has changed. Jewish pensioner Aaron Zukerman refuses to move out of his inner-city apartment, yet Berea is changing at a pace that will pull the rug from under his feet.

Empathy, fear and human courage make a poignant, well-acted film that’s also well produced but isn’t breaking any ­major ground. Script problems, especially in terms of dialogue.

The Line-Up

Folasakin Iwajomo, Nigeria

How far would you go to pay for a child’s life-saving operation?

In a bizarre and deliberately ­unresolved ritual, a man is desperate to save his sister. As one of 10 strangers, he must strip and subject himself to inspection by a mysterious woman. Is she a pervert or is this metaphysical?

To what length will we demean ourselves to protect those we love while government stands aside and capitalists rule? Many questions, few ­answers.

Homecoming

Jim Chuchu, Kenya

An obsessed neighbour invents ever-stranger scenarios for wooing the girl of his dreams. Fresh, forensic and futurist. It spins a normal urban situation into an inner landscape where the young male city dweller plays the big bad wolf.

He creates dystopian scenarios so he can save the day. Hitchcock’s Rear Window reinvented in Africa and repeating on itself – stylishly. Big promise here. Again, can we get a feature please?

African Metropolis screenings

Joburg: Today at 4pm, May 9 at 7.30pm,

The Bioscope (thebioscope.co.za)

Cape Town: From May 30, Labia Theatre (labia.co.za)

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