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CONVERSATIONS ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON(director: Khalo Matabane; screenwriter: Tony Kgoroge; cinematographer: Matthys Mocke; editor: Audrey Maurion; music: Carlo Mombel; cast: Fatima Hersi (Fatima), Tony Kgoroge (Keneiloe); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Khalo Matabane; Matabane Filmworks; 2005-South Africa- in French/Swahili/Zulu/English with English subtitles)
“A probing docudrama about the post-apartheid society in South Africa.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Khalo Matabane’s (“Story of a Beautiful Country”) second feature as a director is a probing docudrama about the post-apartheid society in South Africa. The film examines aspects of the African diaspora, the identity crisis in South Africa, the war-torn strife across Africa and most of the world that leads to the uprooting of families and the looming economic problems caused by the large influx of new immigrants into the country.

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon in Johannesburg, South Africa, Keniloe (Tony Kgoroge) is seen sitting in the park and reading the novel Links by Somali writer Nuruddin Farah. While wandering through the park he encounters a refugee woman in bright blue garb from Somalia named Fatima (Fatima Hersi), who tearfully recounts her struggle and how she sought refuge in South Africa after her family was slaughtered in in a civil war. On the fourth Sunday, Fatima doesn’t show and Keniloe searches the entire park for her and then ventures out to Johannesburg’s crowded neighborhoods–hoping to hear about her life story so he could write about it. During this search he meets with a number of lost souls who all basically say they came to South Africa to find peace from their war-torn or oppressive countries. Those interviewed on Keniloe’s scratchy tape recorder, where the sound was barely audible, include a Ugandan who has seen his family destroyed by war, two Kenyan women escaping from forced genital mutilation, a black intellectual who was born in England but raised in Trinidad and came here for political reasons to be with his fellow Africans, a member of a now-deposed dictator’s special forces in the Congo who escaped from a machete attack and remains because of the opportunities here, a war-torn Palestinian family from Gaza, a South Korean feminist who was arrested in her homeland for her activism and tells of facing bigotry from both white and blacks in her new country but still prefers it here, and a war-weary woman who fled from the former Yugoslavia because of all the bombs and the destruction of her home.

The film is a mixture of reality with fiction; using the framing device of the Somalian woman in the park vanishing, which turned out to be a bad idea because it was so clumsily handled. Though it’s of interest for highlighting how the refugees feel about their new homeland, a place in which most say they are grateful to find peace in but would go back to their homeland in a heart beat if conditions changed there. What emerges, in the end, is that South Africa for all its own domestic problems (which the film neglects to talk about, including its growing crime problem) and xenophobia is a place for multiculturism and where one can find a place not under attack in a world that’s always seemingly in a war-like conflict. It doesn’t tell us much about the world or South Africa’s free society, but we do meet some people in the street and hear directly from them what are some of their concerns and fears without using talking heads as in many documentaries. These refugees seem to be saying that living as an outsider in a free society is better than living in a dictatorship or an oppressed country, which hardly surprised me but it was good to hear them say it.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”