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Film Movement: Entering Mzansi-Neorealism.

A few months back I wrote a (tiny) article about “Kasi Film Movement”, where I basically stated why eKasi: Our Stories and Lokshin Bioscope are two platforms that launched films that would go on and form South Africa’s “Kasi Film Movement”. I’m back now and this time I’ve watched a little more South African cinema and I’ve noticed something, which I think is ushering a new era in South African cinema and is probably the new phase in South African film movements.

This next phase is extremely exciting for me because, I feel like South African filmmakers are finally realizing the great power our stories posses and how impactful they’ll be for future generations.

Enter “Mzansi-Neorealism Film Movement”.

This movement like the Kasi Film Movement, it has emphasis on capturing the realities of everyday folk. Unlike the Kasi Film Movement where melodrama was the permanent undertone through the whole genre, Mzansi-Neorealism Film Movement is trying to present the stories of these regular people in a more grounded and realistic manner, the films have a strictly cinema distribution so no TV movies here folks sorry. These films are taking on an even more moral, social, political and philosophical stance.
The state of South Africa since 2009 has been an extremely shaky one, with doom and gloom here and there – our major cinematic stories were never really reflecting this, the focus seemed to be on romantic comedies, these films were a device in which some of my peers say was used to distract the audience from the actual everyday tragedies happening around them. The Mzansi-Neorealism Film Movement is however moving away from the “fantasy-like” love stories, in favour of more toned down love stories (Happiness is a Four Letter Word, Tell Me Sweet Something, Catching Feelings, Meerkat Maantuig) and moving towards films where protagonists and their films as a whole have a critical view of modern South African society.

The Mzansi-Neorealism Film Movement films focuses towards social problems, political aftermath, unemployment, minority groups (LGBT+) and identity stories (The Endless River, Four Corners, Life, Above All, Otelo Burning, Ayanda, Skoonheid, While You Weren't Looking, Keeping Up With The Kandasamys, Inxeba, The Harvesters) much to the dislike of the older generations. The movement is attempting to put the human experience under the microscope (Beyond the River, Dora's Peace, VAYA). The films are objective and offer a somewhat sympathetic view, these films like some other Neorealism Film Movements Mzansi-Neorealism Film Movement never make moral judgments of the characters in the films (Noem My Skollie, iNumber Number, Bypass).

The filmmakers are moving out of the “kasi” location and into more urban areas, using more modern cinematic techniques and equipment to shoot. The orange hues and tones falling away in place for a more realistic de-saturated look (Krotoa, Kalushi: The Story of Solomon Mahlangu, Shepherds and Butchers). These films are moving away from the popular ridiculous and are embracing authenticity, innovation and even a bit of experimentation especially with themes and style (Of Good Report).
Stylistically Mzansi-Neorealism move away from the Cinéma vérité-esque visual style for more stylized set-ups that still maintain the objectivity. The movement still utilized actual locations but unlike Kasi Film Movement, the Mzansi-Neorealism Film Movement makes use of everything. Medium and close up shots are highly used in order to place the viewer into the emotional state of the character. The desaturated imagery, with harsh-coldish tones and hues. Deep focus photography and a more stylized lighting and editing style is used, unlike the Kasi Film Movement.

These stylistic characterizations are usually accompanied by themes which mainly revolved around political aftermath (even if the film is set in the Apartheid era) (Otelo Burning), morality of the characters are confronted and these films deal with a modernized South African character (The Harvesters). The films avoided having loose or episodic structure.

This again is just my theory, which I got from examining films that have had cinema releases since 2010 till present. You’re welcome to engage with me and tell me why you feel like this isn’t a movement or even an evolution of the Kasi Film Movement. Mzansi-Neorealism seeks to give experiences of South African life, the films seek to empower the audience and tries to make them think about morality and human experience.

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