You think we’ve hit the bottom, then realise there is no bottom, things can always get worse.
Cue an attempted insurrection, looting and arson on a mass scale across KZN and in Gauteng, amidst which a chemicals warehouse burns down engulfing parts of Durban in toxic fumes and killing the Ohlanga River estuary overnight. Just as we think we here have escaped the carnage, taxi bosses start shooting at each other and passengers, killing 24 people this month and bringing this year’s taxi shooting death toll to 83. To top it off, the teetering Metrorail service has to shut even more lines down and transport day zero lands in the midst of an actual storm in the midst of a lockdown.
When it gets to this point, it’s probably best just to do like Shakespeare’s King Lear and challenge the gods: “Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! Rage, blow! You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks! You sulfurous and thought-executing fires, vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts, singe my white head! And though, all-shaking thunder, smite flat the thick rotundity o’ th’ world, crack nature’s molds, all germens spill at once that make ingrateful man!
It helps, I’ve tested it.
The arts always help. And despite the closure of theatres, music venues, movie houses, even restaurants and bars, we still have a National Arts Festival, which has been a portal for our treasured artists to present us with work that helps us make sense of it all.
Although the festival officially closes on 31 July, Mother City News has inside sources and we can reveal that the festival’s fringe programme will still be available to view during August. We urge you to step away from Netflix, Showmax, Apple TV, and DSTV and watch some of these shows. You will not be disappointed. You may even be enlightened. Go and buy a few tickets (cheap cheap at R30 or R40) on nationalartsfestival.co.za, here’s a few suggestions:
Buya: The word means “come back”. Return. It’s about grief, but with a celebratory feel. Khensani Mathebula’s choreography mixes American contemporary dance and South African deep groove, with the Matheta Dance Company a clear combination of South African choreography within a So You Think You Can Dance pageant-type of US contemporary form. It is delightful. And the considerations of choreographic styles plus the solo make this company one to watch. Buya is a thoroughly enjoyable return to exuberant group movement, after so many isolated performances in light of the pandemic.
(Wo)man: I want to put big-eye emojis for this title. Because why is the “man” not the part in brackets? So long after postmodernism has peaked, why are bracketed titles still a thing? And, oh yes, I too used brackets in titles when I was a student so, we forgive. Anyway, these performers can dance. Even though the work ebbed at times, I still looked forward to the moments they got into their bodies. It’s about women’s issues and everything else one could consider an issue. Activism on steroids.
Mobile Inertia: If you excuse the awkward juxtaposition of ‘mobile’ with ‘inertia’ in the title, you are in for an exquisite piece of work. Inertia is ineffably moved and spoken through this film noir experience. Two dancers relay their separate encounters with a kind of existential lack of progression in their lives. The events are banal. But they are expertly told moments of realisation: that they have not been moving, or their movement has been stuck in one place.
Shot in stark black and white with intense shadows, Siphumeze Khundayi’s lens follows the dancers and we get into an intimate relationship with their movements and their thoughts. It is a gentle gem of existential crisis, crafted with disarming charm.
11 Walls in 7 Days is a surrealist trip. This piece made me feel high. And, oh, it was exactly the tonic the doctor ordered. So, if you don’t do drugs and need a fanciful flight from the weight of everything happening outside, watch this to feel like you’re floating in a small plastic pool on a serene South African summer’s day. It’s a dose of escapism amidst the current tumult.
Mommy Mommy… tells a fraught tale of sexuality, abuse and authority. The work follows the story of a young boy raised by a mother whilst his father saunters and wanders, unconstrained and undisturbed. Sons become their fathers, even if only in the imagination of a patronising, narcissistic mother. Written as a dark fantasy, it explores the effects of abuse within the context of a dysfunctional home. Whilst for many, home is safety and love, in this context home is traumatic and fraught. The work is artful and gripping.
In (extra)ordinary, (un)usual, six actors tackle a monologue each, seated on a chair in front of a camera. There are no bells and whistles, the set is bare, the performers plainly dressed. The whole thing’s premised on the ability to tell a good story, and they range from disillusioned brides and opportunistic care-workers to pseudo animal psychics and disgruntled twins. They’re as goofy as they sound, in an endearing sort of way, and all of them wield a degree of macabre humour with a twist – sometimes expected, other times improbable.
The Memoir Monologues is an anthology of individual stories grouped together by a common theme. That said, you can’t dip in and out of the show, selecting monologues as you please. Writer and director Anastasia Amy and her team have opted to edit each monologue into considered fragments that, though disparate, weave in and out of one another’s narrative arcs. The result is a rich and engaging body of work, the success of which is evident in its clear development of tone – a collage of myriad tales and perspectives.
The Shack is the film we’ve been searching for in the midst of the mess South Africa is currently in. It’s seven minutes of erudite storytelling. Wait for it… from the perspective of a shack, e Mpantshi! It is a thrillingly artistic film for our time and every politician within the City of Cape Town should be forced to watch it as part of an intervention to try cultivate whatever empathy remains in their soul.
Durban International Film Festival
You have until Sunday (1 August) to watch some of the really great films and documentaries being screened at the Durban International Film Festival. They are free of charge. And, GO!