Nadia Padayachi

Can Yesterday win an Oscar?

2004-11-26 12:00

The ancient art of story telling is probably one of the world's biggest money making industries.

The World Cinema Festival ended recently. These days, many people can't afford to go to the movies, so at 10 bucks a pop and to see the quality of film that was presented was a real show stopper.

I only got to see the film, Yesterday. Without focusing on any issues which hang over our country, the movie captures rural life in South Africa today.

Leleti Khumalo who I remember for her smile in Sarafina, plays Yesterday. We follow Yesterday and her curious daughter Beauty through their simple yet meandering lives.

Yesterday (her Father named her this because he said that everything was always better yesterday) is ill - she has HIV/Aids, contracted from her husband who works in a mine in the concrete jungle of Egoli.

In contrast, against the striking landscape of Zululand, Yesterday tells her doctor that all she wants to live for is to see Beauty attend her first day of school. It's heartbreaking, honest and real.

This film is South Africa's entry to the Oscars. So it's going big, as it should.

Directed by Darrell James Roodt, who also brought us Sarafina, the twist comes in the form of language.

It's the first feature film to be made in Zulu, so it will be entered into the best foreign language category.

Hinder or help?

Recently, subtitled and foreign films are being regarded with less hesitation.

Bollywood films are screened on SABC3 and have an increasingly wider audience worldwide than imagined ten years ago. The escapism, glam girls, gorgeous guys, dramatic scenes are appealing.

Yesterday is different - of course it is, it's South African. Can South African material make it amongst the big guns? Stokvel had a shot at it with an Emmy nomination this week.

Although this film has been released for a while, Roodt was at the screening to answer any questions the audience posed. He said that he was determined to make the film in Zulu, not in English.

It did bring a purity and believability to the viewer. But with a full-length feature film, with people having to read the subtitles and watch the movie, the message might be lost. Particularly when one is in the international playing field.

What does it take to win an Oscar?

It helps that Anant Singh is the producer and is on the board at the Oscars. The interest is obvious.

I'm hesitant to think what the reaction will be once the film ventures out of our borders. It's as if we're opening a bloody wound to show everyone. Is this a good thing? Does it not show stupidity and our lack of commitment in educating people?

We're showing how people still live and almost conforming to age-old perceptions of what Africa is like, instead of moving towards becoming a first world country.

How is it possible to move on when we're still grappling with basic issues such as running water, education and health education?

Although Roodt says that he doesn't want this to be a message film, it wouldn't be a film if it were not. HIV/Aids is only mentioned a handful of times, but the overall picture of rural life is too harsh.

Is this worth winning an Oscar for?

  • Nadia Padayachi is a publicist at a Cape Town publicity agency.

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