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    Looking at film interpretations of the stories in the Bible - past, present and future, as well as preparation for a future work on Straub/Huillet's Moses und Aron and a few bits and pieces on biblical studies.

    Matt Page


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    Monday, November 03, 2008

    DVD Review: Son of Man

    It's over two and a half years since Dimpho Di Kopane's Son of Man (my review) garned rave reviews at Sundance. Since then there's been a lot of interest about when the film is to be released, indeed it's perhaps the most frequent request for information I get. So I'm pleased to announce that the DVD finally goes on sale today.

    When I saw this film back in July 2006 it was on a screener DVD with a pan and scan aspect ratio, so it's nice to finally see the film in widescreen (16:9). The scenery becomes all the more impressive. The transfer is pretty good although on my DVD player there was a flicker at the bottom of the screen. No such problems on my laptop though (and my DVD player is getting on a bit now). The menu screens are nicely put together and the subtitles are towards the small side so they don't cover up too much of the action (they are however 'burned in').

    There's also a good selection of extras comprising six featurettes. Each is around 3 minutes long and features excerpts from various interviews. As you would expect Andile Kosi, who played Jesus, features fairly prominently, as co-writer / translator Andiswa Kadame, and Ntobeko "Top C" Rwanqa (James).The Company talks about Dimpho Di Kopane, the theatre co-operative who masterminded the project. This is where the film's actors, singers and dancers are from, and the film explains how most of them were picked from obscurity. It also talks about how they collaborate and learn from one another.

    The Gospels in Modern Africa - Talks about the significance of portraying Jesus as a black man. Crucially, it also explains the significance of the way the resurrection is portrayed. That's particularly useful as it's one cultural reference point that will escape most northerners. Kadame also explains that Jesus's death was based on that of activist Steve Biko - something that was new to me.

    Music - Whilst Son of Man is not a musical as such, the music is as significant here as in any other (non-musical) Jesus film, not only contributing to the films distinctive African flavour, but also giving it a real intensity. This featurette talks a little about South African music, its dependence on rhythm and harmony and how much of it is played on hand made or improvised instruments.

    Audience Reactions - This was apparently filmed after a screening and we get a handful of views from those outside the project. This is really the only place where those outside the company get to discuss the film. As you'd expect they are all rave reviews.

    Gabriel - An introduction to, and an interview with, James Anthony who plays Gabriel in the film. Anthony was used extensively in publicising the film, and his angel Gabriel is easily the film's most iconic figure. In many ways the film in general tries to be anti-iconic which means that when the angels do appear, their appearance carries all the "wow" factor that is required. This allows Anthony and co. to act very naturally, (perhaps that should be humanly?) and results in making the supernatural elements of the film very believable.

    The Message - This is perhaps the weakest of the six segments though not without interest. Indeed Andile Kosi's admission that he never believed violence was the solution certainly informs the film's strong 'non-violent resistance' ethic as typified in the scene where Jesus asks his disciples to turn in their weapons. But it ends on Rwanqa talking about how the film is about "everyone being equal". Whilst that's undeniably one of the film's convictions (and certainly pretty laudable), I'm not sure that is the film's 'message' as such.

    Studio: Spier Films

    Language: Xhosa
    Subtitles: English

    Format : Region 2 DVD
    Number of discs: 1

    Classification: 12
    Run Time: 91 minutes

    ASIN: B001GVN87Y

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