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Berlin 2015: South African Film Adaptation of Opera Classic ‘La Boheme’ w/ All-Black Cast to World Premiere

Berlin 2015: South African Film Adaptation of Opera Classic 'La Boheme' w/ All-Black Cast to World Premiere

The team behind “u-Carmen eKhayelitsha” – a modern remake of Georges Bizet’s classic 1875 opera “Carmen,” shot entirely in Xhosa (one of South Africa’s official languages), with an all-black South African cast, combining both music from the original opera with traditional music – have done a similar thing with Giacomo Puccini’s classic 1896 opera, “La Boheme.”

The creative group’s most recent film, a re-imagining of another operatic work, Benjamin Britten’s 1957 piece, “Noye’s Fludde,” made its World Premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.

Director Mark Dornford-May (who made his feature film debut with “U-Carmen”) directed what was originally titled “Unogumbe,” but retained the title of Britten’s original opera, which is a medieval retelling of the “Noah’s Ark” story.

In a gender switch, the film, “Noye’s Fludde” (like just about all their films), stars Pauline Malefane, who also stars in the upcoming “La Boheme” adaptation, which is titled “Breathe – Umphefumlo.”

The film was shot in Khayelitsha Township, near Cape Town (where “u-Carmen” was also shot) last year, for a 2015 bow. I’ve now learned that it will make its world premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival next month. 

The film is produced under the relatively newly-formed F&ME/Isango banner. F&ME chairman is 3-time Academy Award nominee and Tony Award winning director Stephen Daldry, who is also executive producer of the project.

With this new partnership between F&ME and Isango, a slate of similar South Africa-set film adaptations of known works of opera are expected, in addition to “Breathe – Umphefumlo,” which is being made with the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in partnership with Isango Advantage, the UK’s F&ME and Germany’s Propeller Film.

Dornford May and Vlokkie Gordon of Advantage Entertainment will produce.

By the way, a previous film made under the above partnership – “u-Carmen eKhayelitsh” – is available here in the USA on home video. 

Below you’ll find 2 trailers to give you a sample of what this creative team has done in the past: the first for “u-Carmen,” and the second for “Noye’s Fludde.” No trailer for  “Breathe – Umphefumlo” yet.

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