The Train, 2005
A chance encounter between a young student, Giusseppe and a recently paroled ex-convict, Ahmed provides the framework for Brahim Fritah’s distilled and muted, yet thoughtful existential allegory on humanity and modern day cultural identity in The Train. Set against the backdrop of a transcontinental train compartment that curiously resembles an apartment living room (perhaps a reference to Jean-Paul Sartre’s The End), an unexpected connection develops between the two travelers when the studious Giusseppe offers to read the letters for the illiterate Ahmed, whose wife had continued to send his letters throughout his eight year imprisonment, and one day, had inexplicably stopped. An awkward situation resulting from Giusseppe’s seeming inability to read Arabic, coupled by a subsequent embarrassing transaction with the train’s café attendant (played by Bamako actress, Aïssa Maïga) when Giuseppe attempts to pay for his order with francs, and a missed train stop perhaps best encapsulate Fritah’s understated illustration of the indigenous problems of globalization, homogeneity, and cultural assimilation in the aftermath of colonialism and the borderless, Schengen Zone European Union.
Mama Put, 2006
In an unassuming neighborhood in Angola, an impoverished young family headed by an pious and indomitable widowed mother, already struggling to make ends meet and obtain proper medical attention for her sickly, youngest child, receives an unexpected visit from a band of armed bandits one evening. Placated into letting them go and leaving the children unharmed by cooking a meal for them, the family soon finds itself receiving tacit protection and a share of ill-gotten gains from the robbers who begin to make nightly visits to the apartment for their customary meal, unable to extricate themselves from the burden of harboring the presumptuous fugitives. Ever teetering between compassionate humor and dark satire, Seke Somolu’s Mama Put is a thoughtful and infectious exposition on the amorphous nature of obligation, charity, and consequence.
Meokgo and the Stick Fighter, 2006
Teboho Mahlatsi’s sumptuous, atmospheric, and gorgeously shot contribution for the New Crowned Hope festival, Meokgo and the Stick Fighter, recounts the tale of Kgotso, a reclusive rancher, lone wolf stick fighter, and virtuous nomad who wanders the Maluti Mountains of Lesotho. Orphaned since infancy, Kgotso was cared for by a village elder and traditional healer, inheriting her treasured concertina upon her death. Watching over his adopted village, and often coming to the aid of poor, defenseless shepherds who are constantly being terrorized by a roving band of ruthless cattle thieves, Kgotso leads an idyllic pastoral life pursuing the art of combat and music until he encounters a beautiful, enigmatic noble woman who, enchanted by the vibrant melodies of his concertina, begins to haunt his solitude. Mahlatsi’s evocative, poetic fable sublimely fuses the rich, ancient traditional of indigenous African tale-telling with the universality of expressionist imagery to create a timeless and transcendent tale of longing, connection, and destiny.
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