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1 item from 2004


17 September 2004 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Screened at the Toronto International Film Festival

The devastation of AIDS on South Africa could not be captured more intimately and with more effect than Darrell James Roodt's new drama Yesterday.

The socially conscious director of such South African movies as Cry, The Beloved country and Dangerous Ground has now turned his attention to the HIV crisis in his motherland, and has conceived a moving, inspirational tale designed to spread the word.

Without a doubt, it's a message movie presented amidst majestic breath-taking landscape. But because he keeps the narrative low-key @ as well as investing the emotions in a very likeable lead character @ Yesterday maintains a political punch and reins in the tear-jerking schmaltz. It doesn't hurt that this is a wondrous picture visually making great use of the incredible expansive landscape to distil the personal intimate struggle of people facing obstacles beyond their control.

The film begins as a mother and her young daughter are walking across the harsh, dusty terrains of Zululand to try and see the doctor in a neighboring remote town. The trek takes hours and when they arrive, they are too late, the line is too long and the mother is told to come back when the doctor returns next week.

So, mother and daughter head home to their meager but placid village full of contented people and friendly neighbors. The selfless and dedicated woman assumes her bad cough will sooner or later go away. It doesn't. When she finally gets to see a physician she learns the dreaded virus has infected her body. Her husband, the obvious transmitter has been away from home fro months and is working in an underground mine in Johannesburg.

With little money, a shortage of health facilities and even less hope for optimism, the woman named Yesterday, because her father thought "things were better then," wills herself to stay strong so her last wish @ to survive long enough to see her daughter go to her first day of school @ is fulfilled. Meanwhile, the film tone grows darker as the ignorance and prejudices of villagers turn. Sociable neighbors now give them a cold shoulder.

The character of Yesterday is perhaps a little too saintly @ she is portrayed to be so pure of heart, she feels no malice even to the husband who gave her the disease and physically assaulted her when she informed him of the truth @ on the other hand this is the kind of proud black strong woman character that Oprah would approve and endorse if given a chance. "I am not brave, it is just the way things are," Yesterday explains in the film.

Starring in the lead is Leleti Khumalo, whose handsome face conveys a depth of dignity and soul, making her more than a do-good two-dimensional victim. She previously starred in the musical "Sarafina!". Acting with restraint, she makes the most touching scenes even more hearttugging.

In short, this is a simple elegant film. Yesterday is also the fist film to be presented completely in the Zulu language. Tragic and uplifting, Roodt leaves little doubt of where his allegiance lies. But for a cause this good, it's easy to forgive the film's dramatic faults.


HBO Films presents

In association with Distant Horizon and The Nelson Mandela Foundation


Writer/Director: Darrell James Roodt

Producers: Anant Singh, Helena Spring

Director of photography: Michael Brierley

Production designer: Tiaan van Tonder

Costume designer: Darion Hing

Make-up and hair: Raine Edwards

Sound Designer: Jeremy Saacks


Yesterday: Leleti Khumalo

Beauty: Lihle Mvelase

John Khumalo: Kenneth Kambule

Teacher: Harriet Lehabe

Clinic Doctor: Camilla Walker

Village Healer: Nandi Nyembe

In Zulu with English subtitles

No MPAA rating

Running time --- 93 minutes »

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