U-Carmen eKhayelitsha

High opera is reinvigorated with the street-level energies of South African townships (and the talents of South African artists) in this jubilant new film, an out-of-nowhere yet thoroughly deserving winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival. The radiant Pauline Malefana is Carmen, a sensual, all-powerful femme fatale who drags a chain of smitten lovers in her wake, but who is lured into an affair with the one man with the willpower to resist her charms: an officer of the law. If the plot sounds familiar, it should: it's Georges Bizet's 1875 opera Carmen, even if it is sung in Xhosa and takes place in modern-day Cape Town. Originally adapted for the stage by director Mark Dornford-May, this joyous synthesis of the nineteenth-century European canon and twenty-first-century African talent features members of the internationally acclaimed lyric theater company Dimpho Di Kopane, with Malefana its radiant star.

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