I found the film to be a bit stilted and slow, and I wasn’t particularly impressed by the acting. What really irritated me was the continual focus on matches, fire and smoking. Okay, the main dude gets burned to death, but after the fifth smoking scene, where the sound of each match and every inhale is exaggerated to the hilt, it loses its impact. I had to stop myself laughing out loud, because the atmosphere at The Bioscope was one of deadly seriousness.
In the talks afterwards there was a massive amount of emotion coming out from the crowd, many of whom were foreigners, some of whom had been victims of xenophobia, or at least, prejudice, themselves. They were so passionate they spoke before they had collected their thoughts at times, and the makers of the film showed great patience in translating what was being said.
I found myself itching to ask the film-makers one burning question: ‘Were any cigarettes hurt or killed in the making of this film?” But I thought people might find this trite or trivial, coming from a so-called white. It was mainly to break the atmosphere of deadly seriousness. So I asked the main actor, (Hakeem?) the question afterwards, in the coffee shop, and he replied, “no, only matches” and then I wished I had asked it earlier.
I like what Omotso is doing and what the exhibition was about. It’s about, in their words, “doing something”, where most of us are content to do very little, or fuckall. So my reaction is kind of embarrassing, and I’m not sure if I would want it published.
It’s probably got to do with where I come from: I was someone who did little for anyone else, then I became involved, then I felt somewhat let down by those I was trying to help, and I got mugged a couple of times, beaten and stabbed and tied up, (by Zimbabweans, how is that for irony) and I went to a point where I became far more selfish and less willing to help others.
I’m busy coming back from there to a more balanced way of seeing others and deciding where I can be involved again. But I’m still quite wary of ‘wading in’ with good intentions because I have seen what happens if you don’t know what you are doing.
For example, some friends of mine tried to help some destitute San/Bushmen and now the one guy they were working with can’t return to his own community because there was miscommunications and jealousy … similar things, but not as bad, happened when funding became available to the marimba band I was working with … so you have to know what you are doing when you want to ‘help’.
A conversation I had with my partner after watching the movie revolved around living with integrity (not doing harm to others) and doing tiny things every single moment of your life, every day, such as paying attention to what a child is doing or saying, as ways of ‘doing something’ – it doesn’t have to be on a grand scale, like creating a new school, or joining an activist group.
So the film did inspire thought and words, for sure, which is what any good art aims to do .. surely.