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U-CARMEN E-KHAYELITSHA

SYNOPSIS:
Based on Bizet's opera (in turn based on a novel) set in the slums of Seville, the film musical is set in South Africa, but with a parallel story, about Carmen (Pauline Malefane), who seduces Jongikhaja (Andile Tshoni) but even though he becomes obsessed with her, she drops him; in a jealous rage, Jongikhaja kills her.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin in 2005, this unique film transplants not only the story and the setting and the period, but a culturally specific Western opera medium into the middle of a poor South African township. Does it work? Absolutely brilliantly. It works for two primary reasons: the original material is universal and true. And because the natural talent of the cast is big enough to embrace the culture clash and realise the work as a musical drama without manipulation.

That's largely the work of English director Mark Dumford-May who has theatre in his blood; mesmerised by the talent he found in South Africa, he created a lyric theatre company there in 2000, which has led to this vibrant debut on film. A down to earth version of opera on film, much more visceral and tangible than any traditional opera would be. And all the more robust for its real life settings and its cultural complexity as the traditions of opera and the traditions of Africa are fused into a new hybrid. (Apparently it took quite some doing to fit the Xhosa words into Bizet's music.)

The music remains Bizet, but it is given subtle yet effective stings by African percussion additions. The orchestral score was pre-recorded and played live on set, which also allowed for some new sound additions. It may be the most accessible Carmen for those who never go to opera and a vivid new interpretation for those familiar with it.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

U-CARMEN E-KHAYELITSHA (M)
(S. Africa, 2006)

CAST: Pauline Malefane, Andile Tshoni, Lungelwa Blou, Zweilungile Sidloyi, Andries Mbali, Zamile Gantana

PRODUCER: Mark Dornford-May, Ross Garland

DIRECTOR: Mark Dornford-May

SCRIPT: Mark Dornford-May, Ludovic Halévy (opera)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Giulio Biccari

EDITOR: Ronelle Loots

MUSIC: Non original music by Georges Bizet

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Craig Smith

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Dendy

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 7, 2006 (exclusive to Cremorne Orpheum, Sydney)







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