U-Carmen eKhayelitsha
South Africa 2005

Opening 22 Dec 2005

Directed by: Mark Dornford-May
Writing credits: Mark Dornford-May, Andiswa Kedama, Pauline Malefane
Principal actors: Lungelwa Blou, Andiswa Kedama, Pauline Malefane, Andries Mbali, Ruby Mthethwa

It is not surprising that this picture won first prize (Golden Bear) at this year’s Berlinale. It is a brilliant production directed by Mark Dornford-May. This adaptation of the opera Carmen was transformed in two ways. Instead of taking place in a Spanish ghetto, Dornford-May brought it to an authentic township in South Africa and translated the opera libretto from Spanish into the native South African Xhosa language. What is remarkable about the Xhosa language is its beautiful range of clicks and wide open vowel sounds which adapt nicely to the range of music in an opera. Every phrase and note sung had an authentic shift that mesmerized the ear to hang on to the next musical bar to be sung. It was amazing to listen to this classical piece being transformed with the freedom of South African dance that seemed to fit perfectly. Karen says; “I was smiling throughout the whole film. It was an automatic reaction.” Shelly adds, “It was wonderful that they kept to the sense of African beauty and did not try to conform to Hollywood norms. Pauline Malefane (Carmen), who is quite voluptuous, had an amazing sensuality and danced with a sense of enticing liveliness that made this film really stand out from the others in the Berlinale competition.” (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)

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