It's too easy

Talent Press Durban participant Claire Diao reports from the opening ceremony of the 2012 Durban International Film Festival and reviews its opening film ELELWANI.

Durban's opning film 2012: Ntshavheni wa Luruli's ELELWANI

Thursday, July the 19th, 2012. There is a brisk coldness in the air, a kind of wear-your-jacket warning. In the Suncoast cinema, located in a casino-stroke-mall, there is an impertinent smell of popcorn. Welcome to the super-sized Cinecentre where you can watch THE DICTATOR or ELELWANI on South Africa's second biggest screen.

This is Durban Film Festival's opening night, full of everyday people, students, glossy girls, volunteers wearing blue DIFF t-shirts and film professionals and delegates carrying their ishwe-shwe DIFF bags. Through the crowd you can see famous actors from films such as MAN ON THE GROUND and SKOONHEID and beneath the buzz of conversation, you can hear loud music interpreted by a lonely band in the cinema's main entrance.

After the official introduction, South African director Ntshavheni wa Luruli introduced his Venda-language feature ELELWANI. In this contemporary fiction shot in Limpopo, Elelwani, an educated girl in love with a man, receives an order from her father to marry a local king who has financed her studies.

While the story reminded me of Nigerian director Obi Emelonye's MIRROR BOY, in which a young Brit is chosen to be the prince of his Gambian village, the conflicts between tradition and modernity are resolved far more easily in wa Luruli's film. By following her father's wish, Elewani has her cake and eats it, too.

While West-African directors such as Cheick Fantamady Camara (from Guinea) and Henri Duparc (from Cote d’Ivoire) have explored these subjects in their movies, they lacked the brilliant cinematography evident in ELELWANI. Unfortunately, if Luruli's technique is efficient, his treatment of these matters is unrealistic. Forced marriage is a plague which still destroys women’s lives. Education is often put aside in order to maintain family honour, and strength of character is not yet a sufficient solution to fight the harmful effects of polygamy. In fact, honor and respect for one’s elder and traditional values, remain the pillars of African societies as well as the reason why many women are limited in their achievements.