It’s always exciting when a movie lets you get a glimpse of the way that people outside of your sphere of understanding live their lives, and This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection does just that, focusing on the Mosotho people and customs of the tiny Southern African nation of Lesotho. We are first introduced to our narrator, a lesiba player (Jerry Mofokeng Wa Makhetha) in a run down, little bar, who begins to tell us the story of Mantoa (Mary Twala Mhlongo), an elderly widow in a tiny village. As we meet her, she has just learned of the death of her son, leaving her without any surviving family. This sends her into an extended period of mourning, which is only worsened when she is informed that the government plans to build a dam that will lead to the flooding of the valley she lives in.
As she is still struggling with her grief, she tries to rally her fellow villagers to attempt to stop the dam from being built, though the government effectively ignores her pleas. She insists that she wants to be buried in their local cemetery to be closer to her relatives, most of whose bodies will not be moved, but is repeatedly told that she has no choice. As the community rallies around each other, it starts to become clear that someone is sabotaging them, presumably to force them to acquiesce and leave the valley.
Mary Twala’s expressive face radiates with the pain she feels deep in her soul throughout the movie. The camera spends long periods with her in close up and she is always compelling to watch. The sparse dialog has a literary feel to it, as does the minimal but profound plot centered around the agony of grief, the loneliness of old age, and the high cost of the relentless march of progress. This is not a fun movie, and it does occasionally feel a little bit too slowly paced, but it’s a beautiful and enlightening story. The almost poetic language used by the narrator combined with the many striking vistas captured by cinematographer Pierre de Villiers both help to enrich writer / director Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s wise and wonderful film. ★★★★
not rated. contains mild violence and thematic material.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor