Saturday, April 08, 2006

Yesterday: A Film About AIDS from South Africa

Yesterday is a young woman nearly alone in her husband's Zulu village. Having no friends or relatives, she spends most of her time alone with her young daughter Beauty, while her husband is away with most of the men, working in the mines near Johannesburg. At the beginning of the film, we see Yesterday and her daughter walking to a distant village to visit a weekly medical clinic. When they arrive, the line to see the doctor is too long and they are sent away by the only man we see in first 15 or 20 minutes of the film.

Filmed in the Bergville region of Kwa-Natal, Yesterday is a starkly beautiful film. The landscape is broad and nearly barren. The hills of Zululand stand behind Yesterday and Beauty as they till dry land and carry water from the village well. It is difficult to imagine the troubles of the industrial world in such an isolated spot, but the men bring back more than stories from their months near the city. Yesterday is feeling weak and coughs uncontrollably. Who will help her?

Darrell Roodt, who made Cry, the Beloved Country and Sarafina, wrote and directed Yesterday. Leleti Khumalo plays Yesterday, and Kenneth Kambule plays her tragic husband. Viewer will be left remembering little Lihle Mvelase as Beauty, who is so happy to get a dress for school.

Yesterday was nominated for an Academy Award in 2005 in the category of best foreign film. According to the South African Embassy, it is the first feature-length isiZulu film and was sponsored by the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Now that it is available in DVD, it should be added to library collections everywhere.

Yesterday. New York: Home Box Office, 2006. ISBN 078313357x

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