WHERE TO WATCH
WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
A matriarch aims to bring together her fractured, dysfunctional family over Eid-al-Fitr to break the news about her new romance.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Having just concluded our second Ramadaan amid the pandemic, I couldn't help but feel nostalgic watching the very familiar scenes of Cape Town's Muslim community on my screen. Barakat is a beautiful, local film that achieves precisely what Amy Jephta and Ephraim Gordon set out to do: "To portray the richness of what it means to be from the Flats, but seen through a different lens."
Barakat sees Aisha (Vinette Ebrahim) find love two years after her husband, Abdu, passes away. She needs to break the news to her four sons – some of whom are estranged from one another, one has his own marital issues, while another grapples with his faith – and she plans to do so after inviting them home for Eid. In their childhood home, they're forced to confront more than just their mother's new romance as they find themselves immersed in the traditions and culture of the Cape Muslim community. Their home is located in none other than Athlone, Gatesville, where the film was shot and other surrounding Cape Flats areas.
From the movie's opening credits, there's already something so authentic – familiar – about the Davids' family home. The art director and set design team did an exceptional job, evidenced in the musalla in Aisha's bedroom and the crocheted doilies scattered throughout her home. This, with the film in Afrikaaps, and shots in and around Cape Town as the adhan signalled the call to prayer, I knew watching the movie exactly where I was. And it was good to see that representation, free of the usual, often negative, narratives, of these very streets I've found myself in growing up.
For me, this, showing the cultural aspects of the community (not to be mistaken with showing an accurate representation of Islam itself – an important distinction), contributed to much of the film's success. It made for a few beautiful and unforgettable moments, too: one sees Zaid (Mortimer Williams) and Zunaid (Joey Rasdien) join the Crescent Observers' Society for the annual sighting of the moon at Three Anchor Bay; another is when the family first gathers in the Davids' living room to hear Aisha's news, but, of course, they'd already heard, through the grapevine, that something was up. When we skinner though, the story almost always gets lost along the way, making for a rather humorous scene when the family thinks they're going to lose their mother to some sort of heart condition.
On that note, I will say this is where things sort of fell apart for me. Though this was one very good scene where the comedy aspect came through, many of the others, particularly those between the brothers, felt like they just didn't work. The Afrikaaps dialogue felt forced, like those scenes should've just been cut out completely, particularly when it was paired with silly background music that made it seem amateurish and disconnected from the film with stronger dramatic scenes.
With that said, Vinette Ebrahim is incredible as the matriarch of the Davids family. Her character embodies self-sacrifice, and her performance was brilliant, particularly in those quiet, stoic moments. Ra-eesah, Zunaid's wife, is the younger version of Aisha – you get the sense that she's going through now in her marriage what Aisha soldiered through for many years – and Qanita Adams gave her heart and soul to every one of Ra-eesah's emotional and heartbreaking scenes.
Special mention must also be made of Bonnie Mbuli – who played Zaid's girlfriend, though, like Ra-eesah and Zunaid's marital woes, I do feel her storyline and relationship opened a whole can of scandalous worms with many possibilities, sadly, with no actual resolution. And then there's Fadielah played by June van Merch – who delivered with every single one-liner at the film's most pivotal moments as the outspoken, bis, judgerag aunty at every family function that we all love to hate.
You'll laugh, you'll cry, and as we conclude yet another month of Ramadaan, Barakat is a beautiful film you need to go out and see. From the plot, which shows a family come together when it matters most, to Aunty Aisha's home that reminds me so much of my grandmother's, and then, of course, to the bordtjies – the barakatjies – here's a movie that will make you feel nostalgic, and stay with you long after the credits have rolled.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: