The Star, Film portrays pain of HIV/Aids pandemic in rural KwaZulu, 27 August 2004

It may be hailed as a moving piece of cinematic fiction, but for millions of South Africans, it's a frighteningly real story unfolding daily in the poverty-stricken countryside.

Yesterday, written and directed by SA filmmaker Daryl Roodt, is about a poor, young HIV-positive mother struggling to raise her daughter while coming to terms with her imminent death from Aids.

After premiering in Durban in June, the film opens in South Africa soon and will be featured at the Venice Film Festival next week before heading to the Toronto Film Festival in September.

The beautifully shot drama is set in the rolling hills of Zululand in eastern KwaZulu Natal - a picturesque but harsh territory - and is the first international film made in isiZulu.

It follows the life of an illiterate Zulu woman, named Yesterday, in a small, remote village as she struggles while trying to keep her inquisitive
7-year-old daughter occupied.

After she finds out she has contracted HIV from her migrant husband, who works in a Johannesburg gold mine, her health begins to fail, making the tiring chores of gathering water and firewood and the long walks to the nearest clinic agonising.
Yesterday decides that she will not succumb to the disease until her bright daughter is enrolled at school, an opportunity she never had.

"We are very proud to have made the film," veteran producer Anant Singh said yesterday.

"I think it gives audiences an in-depth look at life in South Africa. The important thing is that it celebrates South African women and the moral strength they have to deal with hardships."

Singh, whose international work includes acclaimed anti-apartheid films Sarafina! and Cry the Beloved Country, sees the movie's screening in Venice and Toronto as an opportunity to show the experiences of his compatriots.

Roodt said he was inspired by the effect of the HIV/Aids pandemic on rural people. The film's title comes from a Zulu naming custom, where some people give their children names like Confidence, Innocent or Tomorrow.

"I was named that by my father. He said things were better yesterday than today," the main character explains to a doctor in a scene.

"I thought that Yesterday had beautiful, melancholic reverberations," Roodt said.

KwaZulu Natal, South Africa's most populous province, has the highest HIV infection rate in the country - a staggering one in four women are said to have the virus.

As evident in many local communities, the drama also portrays the fear and ignorance associated with HIV/Aids.

In one of the scenes, Yesterday and her bedridden dying husband are driven out of her home by neighbours who fear being infected by the couple.

"It's a sad story but it's also an uplifting one at the same time," Roodt said.

The production received standing ovations when it premiered at the Durban International Film Festival in June as well as at a special screening at the International HIV/Aids Conference in Bangkok last month.

While Singh and Roodt, who have made nine movies together, hope the film will inspire some viewers to act against the Aids pandemic, they were careful not to make a movie that preached to people.

"We decided to do a story that is, in one sense, quite simple but that also takes the viewer through a journey in a way that they are impacted by it," Singh said.

Yesterday features an all-South African cast starring KwaZulu Natalians Leleti Khumalo, of Sarafina! fame, and newcomer Lihle Mvelase as her daughter. - Sapa-AFP




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