U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha

U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha


Reviewed by: Natasha Footman

Before watching this film, the most I had known about the opera Carmen was that it is incredibly famous and that I’d recognize it’s most well known tune of da-dum-dum-dum (going up) and da-dum-dum-dum (going down) anywhere. And having never viewed any opera before U-Carmen, I didn’t expect to be so moved, so excited, so stimulated by the singing opera involves. Indeed, U-Carmen was a surprise on many levels.

The storyline sounds jaded, and that’s because it is. A woman and a man fall in love with each other, but complications unfold that jeopardise their future together. Nothing we haven’t heard before. Except that this story is set in Africa, and people use singing to express their passions.

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And what voices they have. Striking and powerful, vibrant and touching, the African people sing with voices that vibrate along the airwaves and pulsate into your heart. The lead role of Carmen is played by Pauline Malefane, and her voice is the most natural and self-assured of them all, a complete delight to listen to.

The culture expressed in the film is also incredibly exciting and just as striking. Wonderful cinematography paints a picture of a land filled with poverty, but whose population take nothing for granted and do not wallow in their sorrows. U-Carmen is a cultural brain freeze.

Underlying the whole film is a sense of battling sexual dominance in which the men not the women gain victory. It is a powerful sub current throughout the storyline that enhances the cultural aspects as well as propelling the story forward.

Leave your expectations at the door with U-Carmen. This is a film that won the Golden Bear at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival and doesn’t need sex, nudity or special effects to make it captivating. And even though I have no knowledge of the original Carmen script, I am sure ‘Check out the girls and rate their butts’ is not anywhere in it, so I’m sure people familiar with the opera will discover it again from a totally different perspective. Visually exciting, vocally powerful and moving, U-Carmen is one of the most original pieces of film to be released this year, and whilst it will not be everyone’s cup of tea, it deserves all the delighted drinkers it gets.

Reviewed on: 31 Aug 2007
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U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha packshot
The popular opera Carmen gets a South African makeover.
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Director: Mark Dornford-May

Writer: Mark Dornford-May, Ludovic Halévy, Andiswa Kedama, Pauline Malefane, based on the novella Carmen by Prosper Merimee and George Bizet’s opera version of Carmen

Starring: Pauline Malefane, Andries Mbali, Andiswa Kedama, Raby Mthathwa

Year: 2005

Runtime: 122 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: South Africa


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