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Mlamu Wami Film Review

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Mlamu Wami Film Review

The amount of gas lighting in this film could power 100 explosions in action movies!

Mlamu Wami Poster

When I watched Mlamu Wami, I knew I had to be the one to review it. I whipped out my notebook and took notes as I watched it. I have never been so opinionated and blown away by the detailing that went into the production of a film. Date Night is now my second favourite Intwasa short film. Mlamu Wami takes the top spot, until I see the other films being aired this Friday. Two pages of notes later, here is the review. Watch the film and let me know your thoughts.

A message for parents

The film teaches us that there is a need for parents and guardians to create safe spaces for the youth to discuss issues surrounding dating with them. Growing up, we were told, “No boys before books because boys bring babies.” When Sponono’s male friend comes over to drop off her homework, you can feel Sponono’s sister’s misplaced anger towards him. She resents her husband, but she can’t bite the hand that feeds her, so she takes it out on an unsuspecting victim.

Inter-generational trauma passed down between women

There’s an inter-generational trauma that is being passed down between women and that’s being suspicious of a man with good intentions. That’s because men have made it their brand that they won’t do anything nice for women without wanting sexual favours in return. Our mothers knew it, their mothers knew it, and now it’s in our societal DNA. Tinashe Mugabe can fact check that! Sponono’s brother-in-law buys her a dress and all of a sudden she has an unpaid bill to be settled with sex as an expression of her gratitude.

Male mental health and alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism

Mlamu Wami briefly touches on issues surrounding stress due to economic hardships, alcohol abuse as a coping mechanism and the dire need to have conversations around male mental health when the sister welcomes her husband home. She confronts him about his drinking and he deflects by shaming her for her fertility issues. He avoids discussing his shortcomings by bringing forth her own issues. In shame, she drops the conversation. This blame game with regards to fertility issues is a topic for another day. Another thing to note is the elephant in the room about the lack of basic health services because neither of them mention having sought out a medical practitioner to discuss their possible infertility.

Men want applause for the bare minimum

One thing that irks me and it showed up in the film as well, is how men feel indebted for doing the bare minimum. Not only does he have a debt on the school fees for the previous terms. He gives her ‘some‘ of the school fees money and expects a whole wife in exchange. He is low key angered by the Maths teacher’s offer because firstly, he wants to appear as the only saviour in the home and also because he wants Sponono to himself. This man knows he is inadequate. He literally says to his wife, “Why do you devalue me?” He devalues himself and that’s what makes him an abuser.

If your child dislikes a relative, get curious

One thing parents need to glean from the film is that when kids are uncomfortable or reluctant to be around a certain family member, you should take note and not force them to. There’s a reason why they feel that way, acknowledge and investigate their reasons. Sponono’s sister knew that Sponono does not like being around her husband. That was obviously a red flag. If there are two stereotypical family members who seem to cause the most trauma, it’s aunts and uncles. Aunts seem to be the lead body shamers and while uncles are the top molesters. Should we cancel aunts and uncles? 🤣

 

Abusers are so charismatic to hide their true nature

Abusers will be extra nice to you in front of other people. This is so that when you lodge a complaint against them, people will doubt you based on the kind acts they have seen them perform. That’s why the brother-in-law hands her fees money on the spot. He is peacocking for his wife, knowing full well his sinister intentions for Sponono. His plan works because when Sponono reports him to her sister, the sister initially doesn’t believe her. He even tells Sponono that, “no one will believe you.”

 

Families will hide issues that need to be addressed

When sexual violence occurs in the family, the members tend to want to hide it. When a girl gets pregnant out of wedlock, the parents will send her away or lock her in the house. When Sponono’s friend came over, they lied about her being at home. I think this was so that she can keep their secret which she ended up telling the friend, anyway. Isolation is an instrument typically used by abusers to hide their crimes and keep a hold over their victims.

Kids hate their homes because there’s so much discomfort and tension

Communal family spaces such as eating spaces are so cringe for the kids because those spaces are war zones. The tension is on the menu and the elephant in the room is also at the table. Parents will reprimand children for never being at home without asking why the kids would rather spend the day anywhere else except the home. Sponono literally turns back at the gate and goes back to the wilderness to deal with her trauma on her own.

To all rape survivors, it wasn’t your fault and you will survive

The amount of gas-lighting in this film could power 100 explosions in action movies! Sponono gets asked, “what’s so special about your breasts and bums?” Even when the brother-in-law apologises for raping Sponono, he blames her for his actions. He says, “you are so beautiful.” This film was extremely triggering. The scene when Sponono’s brother-in-law comes to her hut was executed with precision. The candle going out was like pathetic fallacy for what Sponono described as, “you killed me from the inside.” Whoever came up with that idea, here’s your rose!

The matriarch is always left to clean up the mess

Can we talk about how patriarchy will mess up and it’s the role of the black women to fix their mess? He sexually assaulted his sister-in-law and he has the audacity to ask his wife to fix it on his behalf? Daughters in the home are taught at an early age to carry the weight of the family on their shoulders and this was the case in the film. Sponono is told by her brother-in-law that only she can help her sister by becoming the second wife. The girl child is forced to become an adult before her time for the sake of the family. Zoleka blogged about how girls are sold into child marriages to rescue the family from financial ruin and I concur.

 

Women are used as the mule to pass down patriarchal ideologies down to the next generation. Sponono’s sister is the one who pushes the agenda that they are indebted to this man and she even says he is, “our husband.” OUR? You and who? The husband says “I have final say!” He has final say over them because the sister allows him because she has no choice.

Women need an education and to make their own money

If the sister had financial freedom, she wouldn’t have to put up with her deadbeat husband. When she hears about the incident she says to Sponono, “you want to ruin my marriage.” Because she isn’t self-sufficient, she is protective of him because he is her meal ticket. She is more worried about her husband going to jail than about the fact that her sister was violated. The way the sister gets upset with Sponono shows how she has a deeply rooted resentment towards her. I think the sister is jealous of Sponono’s education and high aspirations because it could grant her the freedoms that she doesn’t have. If you don’t believe me that an educated woman is a threat, why does the abuser say, “girls must do well but not very well?”

The location of the film was appropriate. The hand-painted huts further added to the authenticity of the short film and the theme of culture, which was a major underlying theme. The inclusion of these huts will go a long way towards showcasing and pushing local tourism. The wardrobe was meticulous. Sponono was dressed conservatively to drive the point home that dressing is not the catalyst for sexual violence. I also liked how the brother-in-law was wearing the “wife beater” vest when he went in to Sponono‘s hut that night. How appropriate for the scene. Kudos to the wardrobe team, you killed it with the little details.

The only glaring problem I had with the Mlamu Wami film is how erroneous the subtitles were. They needed to be proofread more than once because the grammatical errors are atrocious. Dialogue wise, there was a seamless flow and balance between Ndebele and English. This makes the film relatable to a wider, global audience while remaining authentic to the community it was created in.

What an amazing film! Definitely a must-watch!

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It's your girl! Natively fluent in speaking hard facts. I'm from the City of Kings, born and bred njenge sinkwa! Well versed in women's issues ngazathi libhayibhili. Ang'so mngan' wakho!

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