Izulu Lami - My Secret Sky

2009-10-09 11:21
 
Izulu Lami - My Secret Sky

What it's about:

Ten-year-old Thembi and her eight-year-old brother, Khwezi, are left alone in their rural homestead in KZN after their mother dies. All they have to remember her by is a grass mat she wove, which she aimed to enter in a craft competition run by a white priest in the city. Thembi and Khwezi head to the city on their own to enter the mat themselves and once there, they encounter a gang of street kids who offer to help them out – for a price.

What we thought of it:

The marketing team behind Izulu Lami are calling this film "South Africa's Slumdog Millionaire" - which is over-selling it a bit. Not nearly as slick and entertaining as Slumdog, Izulu Lami at least has ample charm and an appallingly dark underbelly in common with its forebear.

Izulu Lami was born out of a short film, The Sky in her Eyes, which was co-directed by Madoda Ncayiyana and went on to win the Djibril Diop Mambety Prize for best African short film at Cannes in 2003. And now the feature film itself has attracted awards, including an audience award at the recent Durban International Film Festival and a Best Actress prize for young Sobahle Mkabase at the Tarifa Festival in Spain.

Indeed Izulu Lami's greatest achievement is its casting of its central child characters. Thembi (played by the 12-year-old Mkabase) and Khwezi (Sibonelo Mabizela) are abandoned by their greedy and abusive aunt after their mother's death. With their rural mud hut literally left bare, they scrape together the courage to go to 'the city' (Durban) with nothing but their mother's most prized handmade traditional Zulu mat in order to track down the white priest who was one of her most loyal customers.



The story of Izulu Lami has all the elements of a children's fairytale. The siblings suffer the tragedy of their mother's death, there's the evil surrogate parent, the perilous journey into the unknown, the scrappy characters they meet along the way who will either help or hinder our young adventurers. And while it does lull you into its innocent little adventure, any child-like illusions are shattered as soon as they reach the big, bad city. The teeming streets of central Durban are a cesspool of drugs, crime and exploitation that relishes the siblings' naïveté like a shiny new toy. We watch with growing apprehension as Thembi and Khwezi's wide-eyed wonder at this new world is being threatened by dark forces whose evil intentions they cannot possibly envisage.

These include a taxi driver who pimps young street children and sells virgins as cures for Aids. Thembi and Khwezi befriend a wisened young street urchin named Chilli-Boy (played by the infinitely charismatic Tshepang Mohlomi), who takes the newcomers under his wing but is just as likely to turn on them should the opportunity prove fruitful.

The early scenes of the KZN countryside are beautifully shot, and offer a poignant counterpoint to the chaos and danger of the later Durban-set scenes. Much of the movie is made up of thoughtfully composed shots, although they don’t often work that well together or offer any new insight into the characters or the story. From a narrative perspective the movie is quite messy, with vital plot points patched together. The movie works best as a meditation on the horrors faced by children on the streets, the true victims of this tale, but the movie's diligence in following its mythical intentions ultimately works to its disadvantage.

The performances from the child actors are delightful in their unrefined charm. Mkabase in particular is absolutely heartbreaking and the dynamic between the kids is a winner, even though the filmmakers have made it hard work for the audience to appreciate their often disturbing story.

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The heartbreaking story of orphaned siblings who travel to the city to fulfill their mother's dying wish.

Silindile 2009/08/25 9:58 AM
I always fail to see why movies with Zulu title are misinterpreted. IZulu -Sky/Heaven Lami-my,mine.Does this translate to "My SECRET Sky"?????
nix 2009/08/25 10:31 AM
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i think it's poetic license, the english title and the direct zulu translation cannot be the same. translation is also an art and requires imagination
Thabs 2009/08/25 12:38 PM
selling this movie as the sa slumdog sounds a bit pathetic, not that i'm saying it couldn't be as great, but still pathetic. why can't it find it's own voice? the beauty about slumdog was that it never tried to be anything else than what it was, and it captured our imagination into the world that it so amazingly opened to those of us who never knew it. that's the beauty of movies. selling it as another slumdog could be dissastrous. and yes, the translation is soooo wrong! it should be my heaven. not my secret sky, i mean what does that even mean? but the review makes it sound like a nice story...
sbu 2009/08/25 2:05 PM
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maybe wtach the movie before you comment. film writer always like to compare movies to other movies. that's the business!!! sounds like a wonderful story to me.
Risa 2009/08/25 3:26 PM
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I have seen this movie and enjoyed it. Certainly not SA's "slumdog," but definitely a sad but hopeful depiction addressing some very real issues facing our community. It is not possible to explore all of these issues fully in the movie but it ceratinly opens one's mind to them and gets you thinking -I hope that the aim was to do exactly that.
Rene 2009/08/26 10:23 AM
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Beautifully made film. I really felt for these kids.
sli 2009/11/05 5:57 PM
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i watched this movie and i nearly cryed.it is a fantastic but sad movie i also like it when sa.movies become heats keep it up guys!!!
nondumiso mlambo 2009/11/19 8:00 PM
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i loved the movie those two kids are going far keep it up guy very good for a first try.
Nomkhosi 2010/02/25 2:45 PM
I watched this movie, from the beggining I cried but I ended up loughing a lots, when I saw Chilli Bite's character.
linamandla sinxutu 2010/06/07 3:26 PM
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i really like the movie.it has a really good message to children.and i am 14 years old but i have learn a lot from your movie, i wish you can make part two movie.
luvuyo xaba 2010/06/07 3:31 PM
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i mean,what can i say such a times hundred awesome movie.with a very good message,it's nice.AWESOME GUYS YOU ARE ROCKING ROCKERS
Gloria 2010/07/30 12:22 PM
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This story is so tragic and very educational to the future mother's and father's i hope to see oart 2
tshego 2010/09/28 5:51 PM
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this movie rocks especially tshepang mohlomi wow he has got talent ,its so tragic i hope to see it again
Nokuthula 2013/05/09 10:11 AM
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wow this movie is fantastic you did a wonderful job especially Thembi she so strong and i like her because she stands for her young brother and herself too. YOU GO GIRL.
NONJABULO URSULA 2014/09/29 3:11 PM
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OOH MA GOD MASESCRET SKY IT MAKE ME MIC MA MOM A LOT
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