What I meant to say was… #1

This is the first is what’s likely to be a fairly frequent series of postings, in which it turns out that I was hopelessly wrong, and repent accordingly.

So, remember my initial reaction to Yesterday, the first Zulu language feature film? Well, although I stand by my initial largely vacuuous assessment, I have been made substantially wiser through conversation with my new and excellent comrade Mark Hunter.

The film has a bunch of problems with it which I was too awestruck to think through. First, it portrays Yesterday as passive in her contracting HIV- she gets it from her husband, a mineworker. This mechanism of transmission, while it exists, isn’t the main way that rural women get HIV – they’re usually more sexually active, and less scandalised at the thought of having sex with someone who’s not their husband, than the film lets on. In other words, Yesterday’s innocence is a projection not of the reality of most rural women’s lives but, at best, one might say of a minority. If one were more unkind, one would say that it was an appropriation, a projection of a fantasy of black rural women. And if one wanted to follow this through, one could find evidence – the fact that the taxis are empty, and wait for you, is wildly unrealistic. Yesterday can’t carry a bucket on her head – not a skill she’s likely to forget, even if she doesn’t have the strength to do it.

So perhaps the film’s a fable. But if it is, then that’s something that won’t be clear in its representation as a black South African film. When Whoopi Goldberg screens a narrative of People living with AIDS her circle of friends, will it be the complex social commentary of the daytime Zulu soaps that they see, or a fabular bambified version, with the hard questions smoothed away by fine photography, that they will believe represents something of the way it is in rural South Africa today?

Although I had the conversation in which Mark persuaded me of the merits of this case a little while ago, I’m only writing it up now because

1. the internet is lousy here and

2. I’ve developed a profound distaste for the producer of the movie, Anant Singh. More of that in a couple of posts’ time.


Well whaddya know. Roger Ebert has decided that “An Entire Continent Speaks for Itself”. Bloody Anant Singh.

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