‘This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection’ is an intriguing work set in Lesotho about a grieving mother

The Lesotho-born, Berlin-based filmmaker, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, has returned to the big screen after his experimental video essay film, Mother, I am Suffocating. This is My Last Film About You, with a deftly crafted feature film.

This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection is more accessible, but no less brazen as it delves into themes of death, reverence and urbanisation. 

The project was incubated at the Realness Institute, an African screenwriter’s residency, and produced by South Africa’s trailblazing production company Urucu Media, which also produced The Wound (directed by John Trengove). 

This Is Not a Burial premiered at the Venice International Film Festival and will now have its African premiere at the Durban International Film Festival as the opening film.

In the Lesotho highlands, the fictional Nasaretha village came to be when its grounds were used as a burial place for those who died during the Black Plague. 


Once the land was colonised, a church was built and the villagers’ beliefs  were replaced. The old was to be forgotten forever, thus ushering in the inevitable chains of progress to which the village would have to surrender. 

The land is to be flooded to build a dam and some attempt is made to resettle the locals. To preserve the dead, their bodies are exhumed for reburial in the city.

Mantoa is the film’s protagonist — exceptionally played by Mary Twala, who died in July — who vehemently protests the forced removals. She had been waiting for her son to return from the gold mines for the day of jubilee. Instead, his two suitcases are dropped at her feet signalling his death. 

The scene is scored by Yu Miyashita, whose piercing violin composition is reminiscent of Jonny Greenwood’s orchestral soundtrack in There Will Be Blood

Mantoa’s grief is a most moving portrayal of descent into mourning. As a believer, she is undeserving of the hand God has dealt her; she not only grieves the loss of her son, but of her husband, daughter and grandchild. Soon she will suffer another loss. Her last worldly possession — her house.

After the night of fire, Mantoa returns to the site of black ashes and sits on the springs of her charred bed. It is singularly the most striking shot of the film, as a flock of sheep gather around her in protection and grace. 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus is referred to as “Lamb of God” in the proclamation: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” 

The film’s narrator, played by Jerry Mofokeng, muses that there is an assailant or an unfathomable force at work. The message of the sheep might be the benevolence Mantoa and the other villagers seek to restore their faith and endure their displacement.

This Is Not a Burial suggests that change is inevitable and questions that which is called development. The film leaves us asking how developmental change can be achieved without people losing their dignity and becoming further impoverished.

The remarkable ending enshrines the power of activism as Mantoa walks into the abyss and a young girl who bravely watches on is transformed.

This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection will be shown September 10 – 18  . The Durban International Film Festival is a virtual event and tickets are free. This review emanates from the Talent Press, an initiative of Talents Durban in collaboration with the Durban FilmMart. The views in this article reflect the opinions of the film critic, Taryn Joffe.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Taryn Joffe
Taryn Joffe is a Cape Town-based film festival and distribution coordinator, programmer and writer.

Related stories

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

Review: The land is not to be outdone in ‘Dust’

Pieter du Plessis’s post-apocalyptic film throws up some interesting questions, but it also needs to work a little harder

Days of Cannibalism Review: Not a Hannibal Lecter story

Days of Cannibalism tells a compelling story about Chinese traders moving into Lesotho in search of economic success and the effects this has on the Basotho people

Municipality won’t remove former mayor, despite home affairs demands

The department is fighting with a small Free State town, which it accuses of continuing to employ an illegal immigrant

Editorial: Enforce the law lawfully

"Until the law itself makes it nigh impossible for tragedies like Tatane, Marikana and Khosa to occur without real consequence, our fractured relationship with authority will persist."

It’s the end of an era in Lesotho

A political obituary for Thomas Thabane
Advertising

Subscribers only

Covid-19 surges in the Eastern Cape

With people queuing for services, no water, lax enforcement of mask rules and plenty of partying, the virus is flourishing once again, and a quarter of the growth is in the Eastern Cape

Ace prepares ANC branches for battle

ANC secretary general Ace Magashule is ignoring party policy on corruption-charged officials and taking his battle to branch level, where his ‘slate capture’ strategy is expected to leave Ramaphosa on the ropes

More top stories

Under cover of Covid, Uganda targets LGBTQ+ shelter

Pandemic rules were used to justify a violent raid on a homeless shelter in Uganda, but a group of victims is pursuing a criminal case against the perpetrators

JJ Rawlings left an indelible mark on Ghana’s history

The air force pilot and former president used extreme measures, including a coup, enforced ‘discipline’ through executions, ‘disappearances’ and floggings, but reintroduced democracy

Sudan’s government gambles over fuel-subsidy cuts — and people pay...

Economists question the manner in which the transitional government partially cut fuel subsidies

Traditional healers need new spaces

Proper facilities supported by well-researched cultural principles will go a long way to improving the image and perception of the practice of traditional medicine
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…