FILMMAKER Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese walked away with the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival in Utah, United States this week.
The Lesotho native and Berlin based screenwriter, cinematographer and experimental film director bested 11 others in their respective category and won the award for his flick This is not a burial, it’s a resurrection.
In the film, 80-year-old widow ‘Mantoa yearns for her own demise after learning of the tragic death of her coal miner son who was due home for Christmas.
The forced resettlement and flooding of her village to make way for a dam kindles her will to live and pushes her plans for her own burial aside as she takes it upon herself to “defend the spiritual heritage of the community”.
The storyline echoes the surreal realities of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP II) aimed at providing water for the Gauteng region of South Africa and generate hydro-electricity for Lesotho.
The 119 minute film is narrated in Sesotho, with English subtitles, and stars South African veterans Mary Twala Mhlongo and Jerry Mofokeng, Yizo-Yizo’s Makhaola Ndebele and local acts, Tseko Monaheng and Siphiwe Nzima.
One of the three jurors who selected the film and presented the award to Mosese and his crew, Haifaa al-Mansour, said it was “one of the most beautiful films of Sundance 2020” and called it “poetic”.
“This director told a story of resistance and made it universal. The composition of images, the visual grace and the story of this film moved us,” she said.
Mosese took to the Sundance podium alongside his cinematographer, Pierre De Villiers, and producers, Cait Pansegrouw and Elias Ribeiro, to deliver a heartfelt speech.
“I would like to thank everyone, the jury and also the selection committee who gave us a chance to present this film here. I have so much reverence, fear and respect for cinema because it saved my life and it also showed me places I never dreamed of,” Mosese said.
For her part, Pansegrouw said: “We are so proud that this is the first film ever from Lesotho to be showcased internationally,” Pansegrouw said.
Mosese is a self-taught filmmaker whose filmography boasts nine credits including Mother, I Am Suffocating, This is My Last Film About You which premiered at the 2019 Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for several international awards.