Eye For Film >> Movies >> This Is Not A Burial, It's A Resurrection (2019) Film Review
This Is Not A Burial, It's A Resurrection
Reviewed by: Mateusz Tarwacki
In his latest film, This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection, the Lesothan director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, does not lose sight of his local African perspective, although on a daily basis he lives in Berlin. Not only has he managed to keep a unique cultural outlook, but he is also aware of his own point of view as a creator. It is evidenced by the shots from behind the threshold, from behind windows or from behind other inanimate objects – as if the camera is “peeping” the lives of the inhabitants of the tiny village of Nazareth struggling to defend their traditions and homes. As if this image is the gaze of a visitor, someone from the outside, watching people with tenderness and sympathy.
An 80-year-old widow, Mantoa (Mary Twala Mhlongo), has just paid her last respects to her son (who died in a mining accident in South Africa), her only remaining close relative. She wants to leave the world to be among her ancestors – so she plans her own burial, endlessly brooding in the cemetery, slowly saying farewells to life and drowning in mourning. Mantoa’s plans are complicated by the decision of the authorities to build a dam, which threatens to displace the villagers and destroy the cemetery. The 80-year-old, living only thanks to the promise of death, does not condone the desecration of the holy place. She stirs up the calm waters of a small village, hitting this ideological dam of big money and power that is blind to the problems of simple people with full force of honesty and tradition.
Mantoa represents the resistance of many generations trying to prevent the past from being buried. The fight against the local African authorities becomes an allegory of colonialism, which is conquering and captivating not only people, but also places and nature. The fight to preserve the cemetery will become the last barricade against so-called "progress" which, as the village chief (Tseko Monaheng) says, will only come about when the man will look at the ravaged landscape and say, "I have conquered you". The hopelessness of fighting the authorities is noticed at some point by the priest (Makhaola Ndebele), who suddenly understands not only the mechanism of enslavement by the colonisers, but also by the institution he represents – after all, for 30 years French missionaries built the Nazareth’s church, which is now the community centre. The first ringing of the church bell spelled the death of the old world tribal beliefs. The French missionaries were colonisers too.
Mosese uses the structure of myth – the story repeated in language, culture and oral tradition. This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection is colored by traditional costumes, customs and ornate houses. The tradition is pulsating with life. The narrative will therefore be told not only by means of a well-thought-out, "peeping" cinematography (Pierre De Villiers), but also by the narrator's account. He like Homer, tells the story of the old Mantoi woman by means of language and music – using lesibe, a traditional Lesothian instrument.
This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection is a parable of how a myth is born, how an old tradition dies and a new one arises. And this happens in the courageous deeds of people who seem ordinary in our world, but in the world of myth they are always resurrected when a new story rises, according to the lesibe rhythm, against the great evil.Reviewed on: 17 Nov 2020