26 January 2005
In a first for South African cinema, Yesterday – the first ever feature-length isiZulu film – has been nominated for a 2005 Academy Award in the category of best foreign language film.
Hotel Rwanda, a South African-British-Italian co-production shot mainly in SA, also got three Oscar nominations – for Don Cheadle for best actor in a leading role, Sophie Okonedo for best actress in a supporting role, and for best original screenplay.
Yesterday is a completely South African project, produced by Videovision Entertainment with the support of M-Net, the National Film and Video Foundation and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The cast and key crew were all South African.
“We are ecstatic to have received South Africa’s first Oscar nomination,” producer Anant Singh said after the announcement of the nominations on Tuesday. “Yesterday is a South African film in an indigenous language and one that showcases our country’s amazing creative talent in a local story.”
The film, written and directed by Darrell Roodt (Place Of Weeping, The Stick, Sarafina and Cry, The Beloved Country), took its story of an HIV-positive mother deserted by her husband to the 2004 Venice and Toronto international film festivals – and more recently to the Pune International Film Festival in India – and triumphed at each venue.
Yesterday scooped the inaugural Human Rights Film Award at the Venice festival, and the Best Film Award at the Pune festival.
And after its North American premiere in Toronto, HBO Films acquired Yesterday for distribution in the United States, where it is being released through Fine Line, the speciality film division of New Line Cinema, the company that produced and distributed the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Shot on location in the Bergville region of KwaZulu-Natal, Yesterday stars Leleti Khumalo of Sarafina! fame – Khumalo also stars in Hotel Rwanda – Kenneth Kambule, Harriet Lehabe, Camilla Walker, and child star Lihle Mvelase.
The film tells the story of a young mother, Yesterday, who discovers that she is HIV-positive. Her husband, a migrant mineworker, refuses to accept this, and Yesterday is left to fend for herself and her daughter, Beauty, hoping she will survive long enough to see Beauty go to school.
“Even though the film is in isiZulu with English subtitles, we are confident that audiences will respond positively to Yesterday, as it is a universal story that takes one on a journey through one woman’s life and highlights her courage and determination to overcome insurmountable odds,” Singh said.
Yesterday is the first feature film to have the support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which will use the film as a resource in its social development programme, especially in its HIV/Aids and education focus areas.
“When Anant Singh approached us about the making of the film, we had no hesitation in responding,” Nelson Mandela Foundation chief executive John Samuel said before a gala screening of the film at the International Aids Conference in Bangkok in July 2004. “You will see this evening that the story of Yesterday is a very simple yet powerful one.
“In our fight against HIV/Aids, we need these kinds of stories which tell us about challenges, about difficulties and the tragedies,” Samuel said. “We also, at the same time, need stories that tell us about hope – and Yesterday is about hope.
“Mr Mandela has been full of praise for this film because he sees this as an important way of fighting the discrimination and stigma that is attached to the Aids pandemic.”
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