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YESTERDAY (article first published : 2004-10-15)

Three loud cheers for director Darrell James Roodt and Durban film producer Anant Singh for Yesterday, their haunting, moving, topical and compelling slice-of-life South African drama.

Seen at the 2004 Durban International Film Festival, shot in IsiZulu and subtitled in English, this is a landmark local film, a richly detailed portrait of a simple rural family.

It's a family shattered by AIDS, battling with fear and pain as a result, and further burdened by rejection and revulsion from naive and frightened fellow villagers ignorant about the causes and consequences of this dreadful disease.

Opening with a mesmerising, very slow pan over a broken wire fence in front of a field, the Drakensberg as a backdrop, the story begins with the happy title character (a superb Leleti Khumalo, of Sarafina fame) taking a long, dusty, snaking road to a clinic a good two-hour walk away.

With her is Beauty, her bright, inquisitive five-year-old daughter.

Yesterday wants for no more than the roof over her head, her daughter to go to school and for the too-few returns home by her miner husband, who works in Egoli. But when a nagging cough turns into something more alarming, it turns Yesterday's life around - and that of her husband and child.

Roodt milks superb performances all round in a film that paints an honest, vivid portrait of the extreme hardships and close bondings of rural communities. As a means of instructing those less informed about the causes and consequences of AIDS and the dangers of stigmatism attached to the epidemic, the film is also an unvaluable tool of education that urgently needs to reach the very communities it focuses on here. Rating: 8/10. - Billy Suter




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