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May 3, 2006

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, 2005

U_Carmen.gifThe 13th New York African Film Festival's opening night selection is Mark Dornford-May and the Dimpho Di Kopane South African Film and Lyric Theatre Ensemble's gorgeous, sultry, bawdy, offbeat, and invigorating re-adaptation of Georges Bizet's iconic Sevillian gypsy opera Carmen set in a modern day cigarette factory in the South African industrial town of Khayelitsha, near Cape Town. Sung entirely in Xhosa, one of the eleven official languages of South African, the titular role of the luminous seductress Carmen (Pauline Malefane) is transformed into the beautiful, alluring, and confidently outspoken cigarette roller and member of the Gypsy cigarette company's all-ladies choir who catches the eye of a dashing, but insecure and weak-willed police sergeant named Jongi (Andile Tshoni) who abandons his socially (and morally) upstanding life in order to be with her, only to lose faith in their love and abandon her. The film remains faithful to the musical arrangement of the Bizet opera (with the exception of slightly abridged versions of the toreador's song, Votre toast je peu vous le render and Carmen's defiant silence during an interrogation, Tra-la-la...Attends un peu, Carmen) while infusing a unique African perspective to create a bold and infectiously bracing reinvention of Prosper Mérimée's timeless, tragic tale of seduction, jealousy, betrayal, star-crossed love, and moral ruin.

Posted by acquarello on May 03, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, New York African Film Festival


When I watched this movie at the cinema, everyone started walking out one by one becoz they just couldn't take(or shall I say,they didn't get)the song-operatic style employed to narrate the story.Yes! The narrative style was bold and I found the movie enjoyable. But it ends there. IMO, the film couldn't convey the weight of the tragedy(does that make any sense?)and as a result, it failed to make a profound impact on me.

PS:This is just my humble opinion.

Posted by: rakesh on May 04, 2006 10:29 AM | Permalink

Quite the opposite reaction in New York (of course, it helps that the venue is in Lincoln Center), U-Carmen eKhayelitsha was really well received at both screenings. I strongly suspect that an actual Dimpho Di Kopane performance (rather than a film of their performance) will convey the operatic weight of tragedy significantly better, for the same reason that I've seen Carmen at the Met before and it was by far a more visceral experience than listening to any CD recording (even one of the live performance). Personally, I found Pauline Malefane completely charming, and even a little vulnerable, in her role of Carmen, so I really liked her take on the popular tale.

Posted by: acquarello on May 04, 2006 2:43 PM | Permalink

Absolutely. The audience loved it at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archives as well. I was struck by just how beautifully full-bodied Pauline Malefane was; it leant a sensual realism to this familiar story, inflected so uniquely that I was wide-eyed throughout.

Posted by: Maya on Oct 15, 2007 10:58 AM | Permalink

Heheh, same here. I love the fact that Carmen is not "cover girl" attractive, but rather, she's attractive because she owns her sexuality.

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 15, 2007 6:58 PM | Permalink

That woman has agency written all over every move. Beautiful to behold.

Posted by: Maya on Oct 15, 2007 9:37 PM | Permalink

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