May 2, 2006
Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon, 2005
Khalo Matabane expounds on the cross-cultural interrogations of post-apartheid society in his previous film, Story of a Beautiful Country with Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon, a thoughtful, insightful, and articulate melding of fiction and documentary on the changing landscape of new South African society as a result of continental (and international) immigration, refugeeism, and exile. Told from the perspective of an eccentric, aimless man biding his time at a local park reading Somali writer Nuruddin Farah's novel, Links who becomes inspired to write a story based on his chance encounter one day with a lonely, introverted Somali refugee named Fatima, the film examines the multifaceted nature of African diaspora, the meaning of South African identity, and the looming potential for social - and humanitarian - crisis caused by the large influx of new immigrants into the country: a woman from the former Yugoslavia recounts her heartbreaking decision to leave her homeland after years of seemingly unending, devastating Balkan Wars; an Asian woman who immigrated to the country during the years of oppressive military rule of a nascent South Korea encounters bigotry from both white and black communities; young women described their flight from their native country to escape female genital mutilation; a Catholic young woman describes her family's exile from Ethiopia for religious and political reasons as a child, and now feels as though she is a stranger in her own homeland; a British intellectual who immigrated to the country for a more sympathetic quality of life; a secret service agent (or perhaps, more appropriately, a hired thug) once employed by a now-deposed dictator who sees South Africa as a tabula rasa land of opportunity; a group of detained illegal immigrants awaiting deportation back to their impoverished countries express their purely economic motivations for wanting to stay in the country. In the end, what emerges from Matabane's elegantly rendered cultural tapestry is not only an indigenous phenomenon brought about by the free society of a new South Africa, but a broader, global paradigm for inevitable social transformation in the wake of migration, displacement, and multiculturalism.