afrol News, 21 February - The South African movie "u-Carmen e-Khayelitsha" ("Carmen in Khayelitsha") yesterday was awarded the Golden Bear for best picture at the annual Berlinale Film Festival, Europe's alternative to Hollywood's Oscar Awards. The film had faced stiff competition from a Palestinian and a French/US/Rwandan movie.
Pauline Malefane, who plays the leading role in "u-Carmen e-Khayelitsha", accepted the award in Berlin, together with director Marc Dornford-May. Ms Malefane even gave the European audience a song sample of the Xhosa language version of "Carmen" when receiving the Golden Bear.
"u-Carmen e-Khayelitsha" is a warm film describing the production of the famous opera "Carmen" in Xhosa - one of South Africa's main languages - in the township of Khayelitsha. The acting group Dimpho Di Kopane, headed by Ms Malefane, interprets the famous opera piece by George Bizet (1838-1875). Carmen is taken out of her Seville (Spain) environment and masterly placed in a South African township.
The Golden Bear award for this daring South African production surprised most specialists and audience. The controversial Palestinian film "Paradise Now", describing Muslim suicide bombers in a non-condemning way, was one of two favourites in advance. The other favourite was the French/US/Rwandan co-production "Sometimes in April", describing the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Also in South Africa, the prestigious Golden Bear for Mr Dornford-May's movie was unexpected. It was only the second time a South African production had been presented at the Berlinale, following the film "Marigolds in August" of 1980, dating back to the apartheid era.
The importance of a Xhosa language movie winning international applaud was today noted by South Africa's political elite. The ruling ANC party's Youth League today in particular congratulated Ms Malefane, being "a young woman from the dust streets of Khayelitsha, who demonstrated her career in music and as an actress whilst at school."
- Despite coming from a disadvantaged background, from schools without facilities, from a community without facilities, she defied those conditions and has become the world's heroine, the ANC YL went on. "She has inspired many of our youth, that with dedication and commitment, success is not a dream."
The Golden Bear of the Berlinale is about the most prestigious film price to be won in Europe. The Berlinale is currently competing with the film festival of Cannes (France) on being the most important European event in the film industry.
South African however do not have to wait for a long time to see if another important award will go top the national film industry. On Sunday 27 February, Hollywood's Academy Awards, the Oscars, are to take place. There, another South African movie - "Yesterday" by director Darrell James Roodt - is nominated in the Best Foreign Language category.
Also "Yesterday" is produced in one of South Africa's non-European languages, isiZulu. The film gives a face to and re-affirms the humanity of the thousands of victims of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, which has wrought havoc throughout the world, but especially on the African continent. It has already has won acclaim at every film festival where it has been screened.
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