Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese’s 2020 film “This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection” is cinema at its most haunting.
It follows a woman who is waiting for her son, her last surviving relative, to return home for Christmas. She waits outside and is greeted by two men who work in the same mine as her son. They tell her that her son is dead and she breaks down crying. The camera pans away and the audio fades; her pleas are too difficult to bear. To make matters worse, the village where the woman is from, where her family is buried, will be demolished so the government can build a dam.
The film depicts a world that has abandoned its elderly and forgotten its past, a world in a slow death march toward its final moments. Her only wish, she says, “Is to be buried here with my family.” She is the sole survivor of her ancestry and knows she won’t be alive much longer.
The title is foreboding. It’s difficult to imagine what the film may be about at first glance, but upon watching, it’s the most painful depiction of loss ever put on screen.
The film is tragic and brutal in its depiction of grief. It’s emotionally taxing and unrelenting but reminds us to remember our past and our loved ones. We watch an 80-yearold woman, who has outlived her entire family, struggle daily with the loss of her son. Montoa, played by Mary Twala, is stonefaced for a long duration of the film, but occasionally the stone cracks and she lets out a soft cry.
There are many long takes in the movie. Its lack of cutting often leaves you fully immersed. It’s as if you’re in the room with her as she quietly suffers; the emotion is palpable.
The film was shot on digital but given grain and emulsion to appear with the beauty and fervor of 16mm. The effect is so convincing I mistakenly thought it was actually shot on film. Every frame is packed with an impeccable amount of detail.
In the foreground we see characters talking, but in the background there are workers and passersby that only add to the lively atmosphere of the village. This background detail makes us feel at home. It’s a real world we’re in, not a film. It only adds to the impact that this village will soon be abandoned. It’s clear an immense amount of thought went into every shot we’re presented with.
It isn’t uncommon for a film dealing with heavy topics to delve into misery in an excessive and unnatural way, but “This Is Not A Burial” presents loss and grief in such a painstakingly realistic method, it’s easy to forget you’re even watching a scripted film. It’s not only an incredibly crafted tragedy, but also an excellent reminder to remember your past.
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