U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha

Cinema in South Africa going through a bit of a rejig at the moment, if not quite a renaissance. Almost certainly the best thing is that the price of movie tickets has more than halved, through a masterstroke by the cinema giant Ster-Kinekor. Cinema-going remains a rather stuffy affair, with tickets priced at R30 for the cheap shows, rocketing to R100 for the Friday evening show in a few places. That’s about US$16. For this, you get reserved seats, and a cinema empty but for the tossers, including yours truly, who can afford to pay to get in.

The new deal is that, for a range of cinemas in areas where the rich don’t go, you pay R14 (US$2ish) for the first seat you can grab. Which means that the cinema is stuffed, means that the people there aren’t just the tossers, and which means that a mediocre film like Meet the Fockers (redeemed by Dustin Hoffman and, never thought I’d say this, Barbara Streisand) is elevated to a thoroughly good night out.

But the Hollywood venues aren’t the only ones having a makeover. A movie I’m dying to see is U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha – Carmen in Khayelitsha. Despite the galling news that Trevor Manuel, evil South African Finance Minister, has been handing out the soundtrack like candy to his foreign counterparts, the movie looks thoroughly good, cast from township-bred talent. At the moment, the only place you can see it is in townships, and that’s where it’s going to remain on release for a couple of weeks. It’s unlikely that the rich won’t be prepared to wait a bit for the movie to come to them, but it sends a good signal.

A surprisingly good review of the movie phenomenon available at the BBC’s site here, including the spot-on observation from one Khayelitsha resident that “The black people from here who’ve been successful in this film will move to the white suburbs, leaving us.”

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