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Son of Man
Genre Music
Year: 2006

Son of Man is the story of Jesus Christ told in the form of an African fable. The film carefully juxtaposes the Christ figure’s revolutionary message of faith against an unstable political climate in Africa. Son of Man could have fallen into the Apartheid trap by confusing the gospel message and white-black race relations, but chooses to ignore this in favour of an Afrocentric approach. This take on more contemporary issues is refreshing and works for the continent as a whole. Mark Dornford-May adapts the New Testament by combining rich symbolism, beautiful cinematography and powerful lyrics. His follow-up to U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha is slightly more controversial, yet embodies the same high standards.

The nativity story, Jesus’s childhood and his miracles connect Jesus into an African climate, strangled by Herod and his troops. Genocide, political turmoil and tribal rifts are some of the rich themes to Son of Man. The parallels are woven into the script, and the work is poetic in its retelling. The film is quite musical in when it comes to translating emotion and passion. The chants and rhythms tend to engulf the dialogue, when coupled with the rich colours and spellbinding imagery.

The parables are set in townships, where Jesus exorcises demons, heals the sick and wakes the dead. The African fable blends elements from the Bible with contemporary African equivalents. Jesus’s miracles are documented as colourful naieve murals. Mary and Joseph ride into “Bethlehem” on a donkey cart and are turned away from a night shelter, instead of an inn. Angels are represented by black children with white feathers and paint, while Herod’s soldiers are modernised with guns and pangas.

Son of Man is based on a powerful religious message, but takes place under a harsh African Sun. The contemporary themes are real and thought-provoking in a United Colours of Benetton journalistic fashion. News reports relay the story from an outsider’s perspective and violence is toned down. The film does have a flair for grit, but doesn’t let the harsh realism override the fable. Son of Man’s intensity comes from thematic contrasts between the Bible’s depiction of Christ and the modern view on Africa. These factors vary from direct similarities to bipolar opposites, which keep the parable in a state of flux.

Son of Man is successful in interpeting the gospel in a beautiful, contemporary, poetic and emotional manner. However, the film is sometimes too entrenched in its style to hold the reins on its message. The “what if Jesus had lived his days in today’s Africa” perspective is fascinating in a Baz Luhrman sense, but fails to deliver a knock out blow in its conclusion. There are too many targets to hit with one arrow, and the full effect is somewhat diluted without a main point. Son of Man’s cast suffers from the same affliction, where the central character becomes a part of the crowd. This could feed into a greater sense of African community, but allows its audience to rest of the aesthetic rather than the cerebral. Overall, Son of Man is a beautiful art to behold, makes some thought-provoking contrasts and its clever concept carries enough dramatic weight to make the experience memorable.

The bottom line: Poetic.

7.00/10 ( 1 Vote )
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