'On Becoming A Guinea Fowl' Review: Family Secrets Are Revealed In Rungano Nyoni's Zambian Funeral Drama - Cannes Film Festival - Latest Global News

‘On Becoming A Guinea Fowl’ Review: Family Secrets Are Revealed In Rungano Nyoni’s Zambian Funeral Drama – Cannes Film Festival

Rungano Nyoni made a name for herself in 2017 with her Directors’ Fortnight entry I’m not a witch, A sort of surreal comedy in which a young Zambian girl named Shula is given the choice of turning into a goat or admitting that she is a witch. Shula chooses the latter and is sent to a witch camp where she works in service to the community, giving rise to some uncomfortable satire and providing Nyoni with a space to explore the points of conflict between superstition and civilization in modern African society.

About becoming a guinea fowlIts entirety alone suggests something similar, but even though the protagonist is also named Shula, Nyoni’s second film is a bit darker and overall more serious. This time the focus is on the connection between tradition and modernity, using the occasion of a family funeral as a starting point for a slowly moving drama that develops rather stealthily to an unexpectedly emotional climax.

It begins with Shula (Susan Chardy) driving down a country road in her family’s village on the way back from a costume party. Shula’s Afro-futuristic outfit – a silver headset and baggy overalls that make her look like a giant blueberry – is at odds with the rural surroundings and becomes even more striking when she leaves the car to examine a corpse lying in the road. When she realizes that the body is her Uncle Fred, she immediately calls her mother, but she doesn’t want to believe her. “Fred can’t die,” she says. “Just sprinkle some water on him.” But Fred very much Is He’s dead and a pickup truck is coming to pick him up.

Like the Dogme movie Firm, Fred’s subsequent funeral is the beginning of the story in earnest, and Nyoni takes us straight into the customs and pageantry of a Zambian farewell. Death literally crawls toward Shula’s mother’s house as several women in the family shuffle across the threshold on their hands and knees. From this moment on, it is almost exclusively women or “aunts” who are seen mourning loudly and at length, in stark contrast to the reserved Shula, whose seemingly distant behavior is viewed with suspicion by the others (“Her eyes are like that dry. She doesn’t look like someone who’s just seen a corpse.

Shula observes the preparations with the indifference of an outsider, noting the increasing cruelty with which Fred’s widow is being treated. The woman is accused of being a bad wife who neglected to cook for her husband, and Shula becomes aware of an alarming fact about Fred: his preference for young, younger, and much, much younger women. However, she soon discovers that her family either knows this, like her aunts, or is skeptical, like her slightly estranged father (Henry BJ Phiri), who prefers to let sleeping dogs lie. “Would you like to dig up the body and face it?” he asks, calling with a drink in his hand from a swimming pool in a sparsely attended nightclub that appears to be located in a library.

The dam never breaks in Nyoni’s elegantly composed drama, which makes the surprise ending all the more effective. He explains two of the film’s key mysteries – the baroque title and a little girl who sees Shula staring questioningly at Fred’s lifeless body – About becoming a guinea fowl ends with an ambiguous ending that makes perfect sense emotionally but doesn’t effectively reconcile anything at all. For his family, Fred’s death is the end of this unpleasant affair, but for Shula, it could only be the beginning.

Title: About becoming a guinea fowl
Festival: Cannes (Uncertain Respect)
Distributor: A24
Director-screenwriter: The Story of the Bird
Pour: Susan Chardy, Henry BJ Phiri, Elizabeth Chisela
Duration: 1 hour 35 minutes

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