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SXSW Review: Harmony Korine’s ‘Umshini Wam’ Starring Die Antwoord Now Online

SXSW Review: Harmony Korine's 'Umshini Wam' Starring Die Antwoord Now Online

“I’m old enough to bleed, I’m old enough to breed, I’m old enough to crack a brick in your teeth while you sleep.”

Harmony Korine plus South African futuristic rap-rave white trashers Die Antwoord and “Silent Light” cinematographer Alexis Zabe equals “Umshini Wam,” Korine’s latest in short film absurdism. Only 16 minutes long, and translated as “Bring Me My Machine Gun,” the short, which debuted at SXSW last night, feels like somewhat of a companion piece to Korine’s 2010 gloriously beautiful/ugly “Trash Humpers” in mischievous, fucked-up spirit, only instead of shot on butt ugly VHS, the picture is beautifully lensed on an anamorphic 35mm and looks gorgeous (though perhaps it’s not as easy to tell from the embed below).

Korine couldn’t introduce the film last night, but he did send in a video message where the director — wearing running shoes on his hands, sunglasses and a Tupac Shakur sweater — apologized for not being able to appear in person, speaking in a stunted, seemingly stoned cadence. “I got stuck in this other place filming something that was really ridiculous, but I had to do it,” Korine said slowly. “We made this movie across 15 continents and over a couple of years and a few million dollars and in the end it was all worth it. I won’t give away too much other than to say I’m really excited you’re there, I wish I was there, I hope you enjoy this and I’ll talk to you very, very soon.”

The plot of “Umshini Wam,” if there is one, centers on the two central members of Die Antwoord, Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er, clowning around the backwoods streets of what once again appears to be Korine’s Nashville home (the same setting of “Trash Humpers”), looking for respect, shooting off uzi’s all the while wearing yellow and pink animal costumes while riding around in wheelchairs.

While ostensibly, there’s little rhyme or reason to any of it, as Korine is wont to do, there’s a profundity and sweetness around every ridiculous corner. “No one takes us seriously!” Yo-Landi protests with anger and a hint of sadness. Die Antwoord appear to be spiritually lost and while looking for gangsta respect, the short suggests the “white nigger” duo (a character in the film calls them this) are actually on a lonely search for acceptance in an unforgiving world. Meanwhile, Ninja and Yo-Landi blow off their frustration by popping off rounds in the woods, smoking ludicrously gigantic spliffs, playing dead and fucking around with each other, singing lullabies (see the aforementioned lyrics up top), and pimping out their wheelchair rides with hologram rims. People get carelessly murdered, there’s a fantastic animated sequence off the top and DJ Hi-Tek‘s score vacillates from grimy and dirty Die Antwoord techno-rap beats to plaintive and beautiful piano pieces illustrating the pulchritude and vulgarness that’s always inherent in Korine’s work. The duo fight, beat each other up, and argue unintelligibly in their South African gutter patois, but at the end of the day, there’s a sweet, if sometimes absurdest bad-ass braggadocio undercurrent to the entire events.

While typically nonsensical, “Umshini Wam” is also extremely entertaining and worth the effort to see on the big screen. One has to imagine that Korine’s beautiful/ugly aesthetic is eventually going to get old, but as of right now it’s still wonderfully amusing. Watch the short below. [A]

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