CONTROVERSIAL South African feature film, Son of Man, widely seen as echoing President Robert Mugabe’s leadership and seemingly oppressive re
gime, is yet to see the light of day in Zimbabwe six months after its release.
The motion picture, which is a new interpretation of the Bible casting Jesus Christ as a revolutionary fighting oppression in contemporary Africa, premiered on January 22 at the Sundance film festival in Utah in the United States. According to the film’s associate producer, Pauline Malefane who also plays Mary, Son of Man contains an echo of Mugabe’s regime. In the movie Jesus is depicted as a political messiah who mobilises people to fight poverty and political oppression.
“He gathers people around him to fight against poverty and political oppression,” Malefane recently told the South African press. “It feels a bit like apartheid, people living in fear that soldiers could come into the house at any time and kill children. But with the oppressor, a black government, there was an echo of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s regime.”
The contentious film also challenges Hollywood depictions of a Western-looking messiah by replacing him with a “black Jesus”, facing the Herculean task of emancipating a bewildered people from the jaws of a notorious and tyrannical rogue regime said to resemble Zimbabwe. Son of Man was directed by Mark Dornford-May and is a collaborative effort between Spier Films and Dimpho Di Kopane, a theatre and film ensemble. It was shot on location in South Africa’s rural Eastern Cape and Khayelitsha.
Film experts argue that although the movie gives a fresh and innovative approach in depicting the birth and death of Christ in a politicised manner, it may prove contentious for switching the story from Roman-occupied first-century Palestine to a misruled 21st-century Africa.
Independent Xtra enquiries as to when the feature film is likely to show in Zimbabwe failed to yield any dividends as film and cinema organisations were evasive. However, given the stringent measures used by the Censorship Board in gate-keeping artistic products, the film might not show at public theatres due to its political connotations as was the case with American political thriller, The Interpreter which government last year dismissed as a CIA project to vilify Mugabe.
The Interpreter, which stars Oscar award-winner, Nicole Kidman, and Sean Penn showed for a week at public cinemas before being mysteriously pulled off the big screen. According to film website database http://moviefone.com, Son of Man gives an account about the life and death of Jesus Christ retelling it in a strong political and powerful drama from an African perspective.
“Mary (Pauline Malefane) is seeking shelter in a schoolhouse during a skirmish in the midst of a bloody civil war when she is visited by an angel of the Lord, who tells her that she will give birth to the son of God,” reads the synopsis. “Mary raises Jesus (Andile Kosi) until he grows to adulthood; he then sets out on his own, preaching a new faith which embraces compassion and non-violence while rejecting the corruption and brutality of the current political leadership. Jesus’ teachings attract a handful of disciples ranging in age, background, and gender, but as a military occupation force takes over the land, the actions of those who oppose their authority are monitored closely by the new government, and Jesus and his associates are no exception.