Elelwani Is A Local Film That Defies SA Clichés

Elelwani Is A Local Film That Defies SA Clichés
'Elelwani', which in TshiVenda means 'to remember', 'be aware' or 'recall'; is the latest local film to genuinely foreground Venda culture without purposely making it a thing of spectacle. Starring and produced by Florence Masebe, who has braced our small screens on programmes such as 'Scandal' and 'Generations', the movie is highly anesthetised and tells the story of love, cultural identity, heartbreak and perseverance. Known for her strong characters, Masebe infuses her performance with a complex vulnerability that only a seasoned actress could portray.
The story is about Elelwani and her boyfriend, Vele (Shonisani Muleya) who, in the throes of a deep romance, have planned to spend the rest of their lives together. Starry-eyed, they have a great education behind them and see themselves leaving the lush landscape of Venda for an urban romance. The tragedy occurs when Elelwani introduces Vele to her deeply traditional parents - her father is a stern man who sees the local king as the only suitable mate for his daughter.

Directed by Ntshaveni Wa Luruli, who cut his teeth as assistant director on seminal Spike Lee films like 'Malcom X' and 'Jungle Fever', brings an auteur's  touch to the project, presenting the Venda setting as a character in itself through its mores, ways of life and cultural pride. The movie is based on a book written by Dr Titus Ntsieni Maumela who, as a teacher in the 1950s, wanted to show how education was an important vehicle to change the treatment of women in the Venda community. The book's fervour is equal to texts such as 'Mopheme' and 'Ityala la Mawele', which also present an epic and regal overview of tradition in Southern Africa.
In terms of performance, it's Masebe who methodically delves into richly rendered feelings of hurt and frustration without coming across as weak, carrying the narrative alongside the grandeur of Venda itself. Ultimately, 'Elelwani' is a beautiful film that informs us that there are richer stories out there that have nothing to do with township life or the gun-toting contrivance normally associated with urban storytelling in South Africa.
'Elelwani' is currently showing at Nu Metro cinemas across the country, and at The Bioscope.
by Kagiso Mnisi
Finally. A local film that breaks away from clichés about SA. Elelwani is a new tragic romance.