Director mosese1

‘This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection’, starring the late South African screen legend Mary Twala Mhlongo, opens in cinemas across South Africa on 21 May.  

It is the first film from Lesotho, made by Mosotho filmmaker, to ever be showcased internationally. Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, the self-taught filmmaker and visual artist from Lesotho had his essay film ‘Mother I am Suffocating’ selected for Final Cut in Venice in 2018, where it won six awards. It went on to premiere at the Berlinale in 2019. Mosese was one of three filmmakers selected for Biennale College - Cinema with ‘This Is Not A Burial It’s A Resurrection’, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival year, where it won the Jury Award for Visionary Filmmaking. It has gone on to win a further 26 awards, including eight Best Film Awards and three Best Director awards. Mosese is an alumnus of the Berlinale Talents, Focus Features Africa First, Realness African Screenwriting Residency and Cinefondation’s L’Atelier.  

Screen International called ‘This Is Not A Burial, It’s A Resurrection’: "A striking and mesmerizing fictional debut...that marks out Mosese as a notable new voice in African cinema." On the story behind the film, Mosese recalls how his family were evicted from their home when he was a child. “My experience of displacement has significantly impacted who I am and how I see the world. My participation in a Realness African Screenwriter’s Residency early on in my development process gave me the ability to make sense of my feelings around this event. As someone who has mostly had to learn and create in isolation, Realness provided a loving and nurturing home to me and my musings. It was also where I met producers Cait Pansegrouw and Elias Ribeiro, who believed in me from the beginning. Their passion was the driving force behind ‘Resurrection’.”  

“‘Resurrection’ was shot in a rough, unforgiving landscape that was also extremely beautiful. Mary Twala Mhlongo, our lead actress, who was 80 at the time, often had to be carried back and forth by crew members and men from the village. The cinematographer, Pierre de Villiers, was ready and primed to work under extreme conditions that allowed little to no freedom. “  

“I made it clear to the cast that there was to be no ‘acting’,” Mosese says. “A few of the leads came from a South African television background, so we had to strip away preconceived ideas about their characters. As for the local cast, none were professionals; they had never been on camera and they came as they were. The whole community of the village Ha Dinizulu was behind the film. “  

On his relationship with producer Cait Pansegrouw, Mosese says they were synchronised from the start. “We were both truly clear about what kind of work we wanted to make. Cait is a force of nature. She has an iron fist covered in a velvet glove. The crew were patient and respected my thought process. It was amazing to work with my long-time friend and sometime assistant, Pheku (known as ‘Keeper’). His generosity and loyalty cannot be bought, and the same goes for Phillip Leteka.”  

Mosese says he came onto set as a novice. “I allowed myself to dream and not filter anything. I have come to understand that ideas have a life of their own, all I have to do is to free them from myself. Technique and language are things to be used but not necessarily embraced. As far as the camera and composition, Pierre de Villiers has a very particular way of seeing light. I called him ‘the god of the sun’. I also trusted him with the choice of camera, which was the Sony Venice. It served us best in low light conditions.”  

He is eager for audiences to approach the film without preconceived ideas. “As an African filmmaker who set out to explore new forms of cinema, I wanted to develop a new cinematic language. I am hopeful that ‘Resurrection’ will provoke rational self-reflection, just as Brecht’s Epic Theatre encouraged a critical view of the action on the stage. I hope that each person who engages with the film will allow their own ideas around it to permeate and take on their own form.”  

The visually striking drama, set in the mountains of Lesotho, opens with an elderly widow named Mantoa (Mary Twala Mhlongo), grieving the loss of her son. Determined to die and be laid to rest with her family, her plans are interrupted when she discovers that the village and its cemetery will be forcibly resettled to make way for a dam reservoir. Refusing to let the dead be desecrated, she finds a new will to live and ignites a collective spirit of defiance within her community.  

The film also stars film and television icon Jerry Mofokeng Wa Makhetha (‘Tsotsi’, ‘Fanie Fourie’s Lobola’, ‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’, ‘Four Corners, ‘Scandal’, ‘Soul City’, ‘Yizo Yizo’, ‘Isidingo’), Makhaola Ndebele (‘Machine Gun Preacher’, ‘Money Monster’, ‘Nomzamo’) and Tseko Monaheng (‘Naka la Moitheri’, ‘Five Fingers for Marseilles’).