The ground-breaking isiZulu feature film Yesterday, which had a gala screening at the 61st Venice International Film Festival last Friday (3 September), was awarded the inaugural Human Rights Film Award at the Festival this morning. The film which stars Leleti Khumalo and which is written and directed by Darrell James Roodt and produced by Anant Singh received a rousing fifteen minute standing ovation from the audience in Venice.
All films that were selected for the Venetian Horizons section of the festival were eligible for the Human Rights Film Award. Among the criteria for the award was that the film needed to strike a balance between artistic quality and the theme of human rights and also focus on social issues that are normally marginalised. Yesterday met all the criteria and most importantly dealt with the important issues of the role of women in society and HIV / AIDS.
Officiating at the Awards Ceremony this morning, Venice International Film Festival director, Marco Muller, expressed his support for films that expressed Human Rights themes, noting that this was the first time that the Festival had included a Human Rights Section in its programme and commented, “Having a Human Rights Section provides an opportunity for films that deal with less popular issues to be exposed and taken note of.”
“We are honoured that Yesterday has received the inaugural Human Rights Film Award of the Venice Film Festival,” said Anant Singh. “Yesterday is a truly inspirational film that pays tribute to South African women, especially the rural women who take sole responsibility of entire households in the absence of men who work in the cities. This and the issue of HIV /AIDS which was subtly dealt with in Yesterday, set the film apart from others in the running for the Award. This certainly is an achievement for the South African Film Industry, especially the talented creative and technical team of Yesterday.
Local critics have unanimously lauded Yesterday and the international media have also echoed these sentiments. The international daily film industry journal, Variety declared Yesterday to be “a work of quiet power, universality and heartrending compassion” while The International Herald Tribune commented, “it is not only a moving film, but also an unexpectedly uplifting experience to watch.”
Yesterday is currently on release in South Africa and is featured on the Top Ten Boxoffice list.
Yesterday is a Videovision Entertainment production in association with the Nelson Mandela Foundation, M-Net, The National Film And Video Foundation, Distant Horizon and was shot on location in KwaZulu Natal. Music was composed by Madala Kunene and it is executive produced by Sudhir Pragjee and Sanjeev Singh, produced by Anant Singh and Helena Spring and written and directed by Darrell James Roodt.