over and around us lies
I saw a haunting film last night.
Yesterday, released in 2004, is the first Zulu language film to be released internationally. It was also the first South African film to be nominated for an Oscar. Directed by Darrell James Roodt (who also made the gorgeous 1995 film version of Cry, the Beloved Country), it is beautifully shot. The film showcases South Africa's stark beauty, massive desparity, and quite resiliance through an incredible series of images. It even manages to make Johannesburg look pretty, and that's not an easy feat.
The film tells the story of a woman named Yesterday, whose father gave her that name because he believed that yesterday was better than today or tomorrow will be. Yesterday lives with her daughter Beauty in a small town; her husband works in the mines in Johannesburg. She contracts HIV due to her husband's unfaithfulness, and the film follows the story of what happens to her as she tries to get her daughter to school.
Lelethi Khumalo (who played the title character in Roodt's Sarafina!) gives an amazing performance as Yesterday. She somehow manages to convey the hope of a life well lived with the despair of realizing that life will not be what she expected. In one scene, her husband refuses to believe the news she has given about the disease, and he beats her. Khumalo visibly ages from that scene to the next. One moment she is a young wife and mother. The next, she is old, aged with knowledge and despair, headed back home to face a life that will be tinged with death.
The film ends on a hopeful note. I won't tell you what it is, because I want you to Netflix this film and see it for yourself. Suffice it to say that I cried and cried, for the beauty of Africa, for the way the light hits the hills of KwaZulu-Natal, for the unfairness of disease and death, for the hope of new generations. For while we may have been happier yesterday than we will be tomorrow, our hope lies not in the past.