ZIFF DAY 3: SA’s “Khumba” zebra tale wins hearts

You have to hand it to South Africa for the hearty animation Khumba. The production values in this morality tale are way up there in the league of Rio and Ice Age. But it’s the story that towers over the other two, the fact that even for a zebra, life is not black and white. Khumba is this zebra with definite stripe issues. His were half done, not just leaving him as the butt of the animal kingdom’s jokes. As the odd one, it is easy for his herd to blame him for bringing drought to the land. His dead mother’s folkloric tales see him team up with a sassy wildebeest and a flamboyant ostrich to find the legendary waterhole where the first zebras got their stripes. It will not be an easy journey. He has to come face to face with a tyrannical leopard in the epic battle to earn the other half of his stripes. Anyone that has been on the receiving end of being picked on for being different will love this animated feature. The rib-crackers come by the bucketful although using Hollywood actor voices was sucking up way too much. If you have little ones, get them the DVD! They’ll cherish the life lessons even if they fail to get the Springbok jokes.


Thomas Sankara’s legacy was honoured in Twaagaa, short movie from Burkina Faso. Its hero is Manu, an eight year old that loves comics though his elder brother Albert sees him as rather pesky. Like Sankara, Manu is out to play the society hero, standing up to soccer bullies in much the same way Sankara urged African nations not to pay off their World Bank loans. In fact Sankara’s revolutionary speeches form a chunk of the movie’s soundtrack. However, there’s a distinct line between anti-Western idealism and the reality where a Lebanese invasion sees a local business man spar with an enterprising alien that is threatening to push him out of business. Sadly for our hero Manu, not even an improvise cape suit can give him the superpowers that Superman possesses. And like Sankara, his life is cut short before he can save the world.

Six short films take us into the cities in African Metropolis, a Goethe Intitut initiative to show us the face of a modern and cosmopolitan Africa beyond the longstanding clichés about the continent. Of particular note are two films; The Line-Up from Nigeria and Berea from South Africa. In the Lagos film, we are brought up close with the seedy side of one of Africa’s biggest cities in what plays out as male prostitution. A seemingly well-heeled lady lines up naked lads nightly and picks out a select few for business that is left to the viewer’s imagination. Our lead actor has to put up with the paid humiliation if anything to pay for his sister’s life-saving operation.Berea is a rather discomforting look at lingering racism in South Africa. A lonely Jewish man lives in his high-rise apartment in what looks like lowbrow Hillbrow, getting his weekly coital fix from a prostitute. When a Black hooker shows up, he gets a reality check via the world outside his apartment and at just how the fortunes have changed in the hustle that is modern-day South Africa.

Meanwhile, there was something of a sour taste in Love Thy Game, a Ugandan documentary that can best be described as a mediocre attempt at documenting a couple of survivor tales stories from the 2010 Kyadondo World Cup bombings. Such poignant events deserve better cinematic treatment than the bad documentary filmmaking this effort was. Brenda Nanyonjo makes herself the film’s hero deliberately relegating the genuine survivor here, a man who was left for dead in the Mulago Hospital mortuary and only got a new lease on life by a medic intern practicing drip insertion on dead bodies. Such cinematic mediocrity, however noble, calls for the guillotine! The July 10 fatalities must be turning in their graves at this affront on their soccer-phillic memory.

Text: MOSES SERUGO (serugo@gmail.com)


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