Last night I watched This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection. To say that it rocked me to the core of my being would be an understatement. This film, simply put, in my humble but cinema-obsessed opinion, is the single greatest film to come out of Southern Africa. Beyond that, it would easily sit in my top ten favourite films of all time. Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese (who directed, wrote and edited the film ) and his masterful team including producers Cait Pansegrouw and Elias Ribeiro, Director of Photography Pierre de Villiers and composer Yu Miyashita, have managed to conjure up such sheer brilliance that I can hardly overstate the necessity for anyone and everyone to watch this film at least twice, and immediately, without hesitation, like, right now.
From the first second the image sparks to life on screen, to the last breath of the final words uttered, I was utterly transfixed. The masterful interplay between sound and image, writing and virtuosic solo and ensemble performance left me breathless. There were times in which the image so completely gripped me, that I felt the ingenious hands of the creative team literally pull me into the screen. For every moment after my first viewing last night, and even now as I write, the film remains with me, in ways that no film I have ever seen before has. The closest cinematic reference I could give for this film would be the silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc directed by Carl Theodore Dreyer or Mirror directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, the former being a film which Lemohang Mosese has previously mentioned as an important influence on his cinematic experience. But whilst Dreyer was content to venerate Joan of Arc in the singular (the battle of the individual to secure their liberty or spiritual freedom), Mosese echoes the call by Namibian Filmmaker Perivi Katjavivi, placing centre stage no less than a reconciliation between “a philosophy of interconnectedness and a philosophy of the sovereign individual”.
The lead character, played by Mary Twala in her final and greatest performance before her passing, brings a cinematic presence unlike any other I have ever experienced. To relegate it to a long standing line of many other brilliant performances would not do it justice. Through her gaze and aura, Twala simply transcends the notion of a filmic performance, to deliver something otherworldly. But it is not a stand alone performance. What makes this film is both Twala and the community of Nasaretha. They lean on and into each other in ways which elucidate immense strength, and at times, the fissures in the fragile balancing acts of rural communities in our post-colonial capitalist nightmare.
The casting by Cait Pansegrouw by and Moonyeen Lee strikes the rock, each and every time, without fail. Never before has a film from here been so perfectly cast that there is no split second moment throughout the film’s two hour duration that you question the authenticity and depth of the performers on screen. Furthermore, producer Cait Pansegrouw has demonstrated not only a tenacity and innate filmic instinct in her steering of this project, she has placed herself head and shoulders above other producers in this country. If you want to see what producing can be, look no further…
The cinematography by Pierre de Villiers never leaves you with a second to place yourself outside of the film, it takes you by the hand and guides you with such gentle and passionate grace that I felt de Villiers had embodied entirely the proposition by Ramal Ross that we should use the camera “as an extension of your consciousness”. The cinematography found its own unique voice in a time in which originality in cinema is increasingly hard to come by, sitting somewhere between the golden touches of Curon on Roma and the masterful framing of Tarkvosky’s own Georgy Rerberg in Mirror.
The sound design by Pressure Cooker Studios and musical score by Yu Miyashita were equally moving, albeit, for different reasons. They provided the counterpoint to Pierre de Villiers’s graceful work, superimposing an atonal interjection of raging strings and synths intertwined with an immersive sonic landscape. So sweetly did it all sit together, that it felt as if it had always been that way, and would continue to be, even long after we walked away from the screen and into our dreams.
The direction, writing and editing, by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese certainly announces the arrival of Southern Africa’s most exciting talent to emerge in recent memory. At times, all three hats that this filmmaker wore would reach such sustained virtuosic levels, that I felt I would never need to see another film again. From the writing which seamlessly straddles the mythical and realist dimensions of the story like the perfect form of Dada Masilo in her rendition of the ballet Giselle. To the editing whose pacing, rhythm and grace notes in turn add layer upon layer to the story as you find yourself pulled further and further into its world. And lastly, the overall direction, in which Mosese seems clearly to be not only an inspiring collaborator (bringing out such greatness from your core team requires no less) but a conductor of the most precise and balanced chaos. There simply is no other filmmaker working in Southern Africa today that comes close to this.
To be sure, this is not merely a film, this is a birthing of some new and primordial creative resistance, that finds its articulation through the profound cadences of pain, elation, protest, spirituality, ancestry, and the very soil we stand on. This is the coming of the filmmakers we deserve. This is the coming of the filmmakers we need. I have never felt more free to create film in this place than I do now. From the bottom of my heart I thank you Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, you have given us all something of inexplicable value.