Friday, April 22, 2005

From the opening shot of Yesterday in which we experience a slow tracking shot across a barbed wire fence separating us from a sweeping landscape, you know you’re in the hands of a very mature director. The soothing sounds of the wind immediate lulls you into a completely different world. The minimalist style perfectly complements the life of these characters in a small village in South Africa. The film is about a mother coping with A.I.D.S. Director, Darrell James Roodt actively avoids sentimentalizing, yet it is undoubtedly a powerful movie. On stage, Roger actually choked up as he recalled some of his favorite moments from the film. I’ve never seen that before. It’s actually quite moving. It’s encouraging to see that even after seeing thousands upon thousands of movies year after year, a film can still affect a critic like that.

I didn’t know that Roger studied for a year in South Africa at the University of Capetown in 1965. You learn something new at every discussion. He indicated that Robben Island, the site of Nelsen Mandela’s imprisonment, is now a tourist attraction where souvenirs are sold. Roodt laughed at the idea of “I Love Robben Island” t-shirts. Roger went on to say that the man who runs the souvenir store used to be one of the prison guards and that he would quite often sneak mail as well as the prisoners in and out of the prisoner. The way he got away with this was by pretending to be the most hard-boiled racist of all the guards. Because there was a continuous “problem” of guards becoming friendly with the prisoners and becoming sympathetic, there was a constant turnover of the guards. This guard however who pretended to be the worst guard was actually the one actually responsible for the most covert sympathy.

Roodt is a very animated, fast-speaking, but charming man. He’s like a child excited to show people his Yugi-Oh cards. One audience member commented that it was flabbergasting to see Roodt on stage having just experienced his very “leisurely paced” film. “When are you going to show this movie to the Pope?” asked another audience member. “He’s dead,” joked Roodt. Roger eased away from the bold joke to address that the woman’s point was that there is an inherent call for condoms to be distributed in Africa to save lives. Roodt went on to express that there’s a tragic number of A.I.D.S. orphans in South Africa. Although he went to great lengths to stress that he is merely a filmmaker and has no designs when he’s making a film to “shake the world”, it is quite possible that this film by Roodt and subsequent films will indeed have an impact on the problems currently faced by southern Africa. No doubt it’s a very moving film. Thankfully, Rood said that HBO has picked up Yesterday and we should be able to see it by August.

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