The 2013/14 year has been a truly great year for SA films. We've had different types of movies coming out in a steady pace from the purely commercial Blitzpatrolie, iNumber Number to the dead serious and arty Of Good Report, Elelwani
Joining that prestigious list somewhere in between the two streams of commercial and art film is The Forgotten Kingdom, the first feature film to be shot and produced in the Kingdom of Lesotho. Let's dig in.
Most of us would remember Zenzo Ngqobe from Rhythm City and the film Tsotsi ... he plays our lead character Atang Joseph Mokoena. A young man who's forced to track back to Lesotho to lay his father to rest. There he experiences two journeys: one of cultural re-awakening as he re-touches base with his cultural identity as a Mosotho and the other of the importance and meaning of family and love that comes with being in a family unit.
Zenzo, although more of a Setswana speaker than SeSotho speaker, does the role justice. His Setswana-influenced SeSotho makes him more of an outsider which the role demands. He's got that siphumi-jozi gangster swag in him and the silent menace in his demenour that does not lose sight of his broken inner being. Zenzo plays all those elements well.
The other stand-out performances are from Nozipho Nkelemba as Dineo who plays the love interest but also the archetypal perfect African daughter. She's obedient, principled and the embodiment of maternal and familial love.
Nozipho, ironically, was also on Rhythm City - playing Senzo's girlfriend. She's matured as an actor and her SeSotho just rolls off the tongue. She's the other heart of this movie.
The other impressive turn is from the young Lebohang Ntsane who plays Atang's spiritual and physical guide through Lesotho in the form of a young orphaned boy. Then there's Lesotho, which Andrew Mudge (the Writer-Director) and his Director of Photography, capture the natural beauty of Lesotho.
From the rolling hills and mountains to the beauty of wild flowers in spring, to the lifestyle of Moshoeshoe's people, there's a romanticism in how the landscape is captured. Yet it is tinted with a touch of fantasy and myth-making in the story but still grounded in harsh realities of today.
Atang goes through a journey that is both literal and mythological - that not only speaks to the character but us, as Africans, in today's world. Who too have lost a sense of self due to empirilism, colonilazation, urbanization and the breaking down of the family unit. So what is the forgotten kingdom ... is it the kingdom of Lesotho?
I put it to you that the forgotten kingdom are two: the knowledge of self within a cultural identity and the knowledge of love through family. That is what I took from this film.
It's amazing that it is written and directed by a white male especially if you think of how positively the idea of knowledge of self within an African idea is encapsulated.
This is one of those movies that you want to take your whole family to see - a change from the crime and gangster sub-genre that is popular in our cinemas.
It is refreshing to see a film that explores our world as it is, as it could be and as it should
be whilst tackling issues and showing us a way to become better people.
There are so many cool ideas in this movies that one could produce a graduate thesis on the post -colonial condition ... the cool thing you can watch the movie without even having to decode the film. Do yourself a favour, check this out.Rating ***1/2
*junk **almost bearable ***now we cooking ****almost perfect *****classic ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++