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American Women's Club of Hamburg

A stronger showing among African films for 2015

There were several African films this year giving us a glimpse into the problems in Africa. The first South African film Breathe Umphefumlo directed and written by Mark Dornford-May was an adaption on the opera La Boheme. This was not his first attempt at doing an opera. In 2005 Dornford-May won a Golden Bear for the adaptation on the opera Carmen.  In this film Mimi and Lungelo fall in love and dream of having a future together but it is a struggle to get medicine for the failing Mimi. Although the film is trying to bring across the disastrous statistic of two million global deaths due to TB, it lacks the inspiration of his previous film. The characters seem not to come to life at all and the singing becomes annoying after a while. Either it was out of tune or due to the atmosphere around; it just didn’t work. It is a shame that it didn’t maintain certain freshness and inspiration that the other opera adaptation did so perfectly since it was trying to send a well-deserving message.
In the South African film Necktie Youth by director Sibs Shongwe-La Mer is trying to show an ever changing lifestyle where a group of young people either sink or swim. Sandton is a place to hang out at parties and pools while taking drugs. This is the rich part of town in Johannesburg which portrays a first post-apartheid gilded youth. 19 year old Emma commits suicide while filming herself? Why? It is confronting a lifestyle that changes so rapidly, molding and changing the youth and their dreams. The film is shot in black and white and somehow has the feeling that the party has gone bad and South Africa will burst into political flames once again.
The Kenyan film Stories of our lives, by director Jim Chuchu, dives into the forbidden topic of homosexuality. The director and his crew are members of the multi-disciplinary art collective The Nest and spent several months traveling Kenya and collecting stories of young Lesbian-Gay-Bi-Transvestite (LGBTI) people. These stories tell about their experiences and their lives in a country that is extremely homophobic. It is based on interviews and then broken up into five screenplays. The film uses strong black and white images to illustrate this search for identity and self-determination. A strong message is sent that these people will keep fighting for their rights despite their fears.

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