THIS IS NOT A BURIAL, ITS A RESURRECTION
(***½)-VITO CARLI

"...serves as a fine tribute to the skills of the late great lead actress..."

Cinema Buffs Will Get a Rise out of "This"

(110521) This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection is a hypnotic and haunting melodrama about the ongoing struggle between tradition and the unending push for progress. It shares this theme with such disparate classic art works as Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart and Robert Altman’s McCabe and Mrs.Miller.

This critically acclaimed co-production from Lesotho/South Africa is the first film representing Lesotho that was submitted for consideration at the 2020 Academy Awards. The film also won a Jury Prize from the Sundance Film Festival and took home the best director and best cinematography award at Africa’s Academy Awards. It is considered by some critics (along with Black Girl, Tsotsi. Moolade, and Timbuktu) to be one of the greatest films ever made in Africa. Critics have compared the slow, painterly style of director, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese to both the great, late Russian film maker, Andrei Tarkovsky and the Portuguese film maverick, Pedro Costa. The constant repetition of square shaped images from cinematographer, Pierre de Villeier’s gives the film a wholly unique visual look.

Although it that was made in 2019, and it opened in France last year, it is finally streaming now in the USA on Apple Tunes, Google Play, Vudu and Amazon Prime as well as the Music Box Theatre website.

The film stars Mary Twala Mhonlongo (some Americans might know her from her appearance in Beyonce’s Black is King film) in what sadly turned out to be her last performance. She is unforgettable in the role Mantoa, an 80-year-old woman who experiences more grief and tragedy in a few years than anyone should ever experiences.

Mantoa has lived in the same peaceful village her whole life, but the winds of change threaten her future. While she is making plans for her own burial (she even hires a man to physically bury her corpse), she gets the word that her only living son, was killed in a coal mining accident. She had outlived her daughter and granddaughter as well and perhaps it is appropriate that the name of her town can be translated as “place of weeping.’ She seems to devote all her remaining energy to carrying on tradition and she even wears black much longer than the usual mourning period which causes some in the town to think she has a few screws loose.

Mantoa knows she is not long for the world and wants to be buried near her ancestors. But the town has other plans. Her community leaders with seemingly no input from the villagers decided they will put a dam into the village which will flood the area in which contains the resting places of all Mantoa’s relatives and where she intends to be buried.

Although the officials offer to help relocate the bodies Mantoa does not find this solution acceptable. The previously conservative mostly calm woman ends up having a fiery wrath and she begins to lead a movement to oppose the dam. She refuses to let the officials desecrate the dead in the name of greed.

She also despises the local priest (played by Makaola Nbebele) who advises her to accept change, but because of her tragedies she has grown to despise religion and sees priests as apologists for colonization and gentrification.

The plot gets a little murky towards the end when bad things start happening in the town as the dam plans get underway. Is this a case of coincidence or are the gods taking revenge for transgression (like in Oedipus Rex) and desecration of the dead? I am not sure, and you may not know either by the end of the film.

The film also has many scenes spotlighting an odd narrator who says ominous statements as he plays a bizarre instrument called a lesiba-a Basho instrument which is somewhat similar to a mouth harp. This helps give the film an other worldly atmosphere, but I’m sure that the people where the film takes place would also find us equally inscrutable.

Some American viewers might be bored by the leisurely pace of the story telling, but this film is a special and wholly unique and insightful piece of cinematic art that gives us a deep look into the mindsets of denizens of an almost wholly alien culture. Also, the serves as a fine tribute to the skills of the late great lead actress as well as the enduring strength of the human spirit in the worse of all circumstances.
 

Directed & Written by:    Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese
Starring:    Twala Mhlongo, Jerry Motokeng Wa, Makhaola
 Ndebele
Released:    040121(in United States)
Length:    119 minutes
Rating:    Unrated
Available on:     At press time film is streaming on Apple Tunes,
  Google Play, Vudu and Amazon Prime as well as
  the Music Box Theatre website.
 
  In Sesotho with English subtitles

For more writings by Vittorio Carli go to www.artinterviews.org and www.chicagopoetry.org. His latest book "Tape Worm Salad with Olive Oil for Extra Flavor" is also available.

THIS IS NOT A BURIAL, ITS A RESURRECTION © 2021 Biennale College - Cinema
Review © 2021 Alternate Reality, Inc.