Musa’s family is dying of a mysterious disease that the villagers believe to be a curse. Musa sets off to find his uncle and earn money to help his family in the big city where he learns of the devastating disease AIDS.

The Lowdown

Musa (Junior Singo) is a young boy whose mother died of a mysterious disease. The people in his village of KwaZulu Natal believe it is a curse on his family. When his father also falls to the disease, he is shunned by other children who tell him he is cursed and they don’t want him near them. His grandmother shares the superstitious beliefs and takes the local doctor’s advice to sacrifice the family cow to break the curse. Musa’s father dies anyway and the family is left with nothing.

Musa makes the decision to become a man and leaves his family for the big city to find work as well as find his uncle to return and help the family. Along the way he meets a truck driver named Nobe (Owen Sejake) who takes a liking to the boy and drives him to the city. He meets a street urchin named Letti (Nolatandu Maleke) who teaches him how to survive on the streets. She also teaches Musa about AIDS, the disease that took his family from him.

This is a movie about AIDS, which affects everyone from the uneducated people in the village to the truck drivers who frequent the numerous prostitution stops along their routes. It also affected the son of the owner of the trucking company. The owner, Pieter (Clive Scott), makes it his mission to educate his employees of the dangers of the disease, which seemed hard to accomplish with the ignorance that many of the characters exhibited. One of the drivers actually makes the comment that if a woman gives him AIDS, he will give to every woman he knew and they would all die with him.

I feel the script is a little heavy handed in places. There is a scene where Nobe and his wife have possibly the most ridiculous argument about condoms I have ever heard. He mentioned that maybe condoms were what brought the disease to begin with. He then goes on to say that why he should take off his pants just to put them back on again. Musa also meets the street urchin with the heart of gold. The movie preaches more than I would have liked but, with this subject matter, it might be warranted.

Africa is the country most affected by the devastation of AIDS. The country is estimated to have more than 60% of the world’s AIDS population. More than 12 million children in Africa have been orphaned by this epidemic. Many of the governments in sub-Saharan Africa denied the problem for years, despite more than 30 million people carrying the disease. That always seemed to be a ridiculous statement to me. Why would countries ignore this massive problem and continue to let their family and friends die? This movie deals with that story in a way that makes it clearer than I have seen it presented in awhile.

The people in this film do show ignorance to the problem of AIDS. However these problems are not truly cases of ignorance, but cases of fear. To admit that you have AIDS means you are shunned and cast aside by society. Fear ran rampant throughout Africa because of this disease and society believed it was safer to preach mysterious curses than to admit to the real problem at hand. This film shows that the best stance to fight the fear is to stand up, together and in the face of fear and work together to remain strong and carry on. Yes, it is a heavy handed method of filmmaking, but this type of story needed it.

On the positive side, young Singo is great in his lead role as Musa. When an actor that young is expected to carry a movie, the results can be mixed at best. Singo gave a performance of a lifetime here and really carried the movie to a level it could not have achieved with a lesser actor. Sejake also performed well in his supporting role and reminded me of a Charles Dutton clone, and that is a good thing.

The high point of the movie is the look of the film. The beauty that director David Hickson and cinematographer Lance Gewer achieved is awe inspiring. Gewer went on to shoot Oscar winner Tsotsi and showed here the promise that he would fulfill. Whether it was the beauty of the African countryside or the dirty, gloominess of the city streets, it was all shot with beauty and precision. The music composed by Paul Hepker, who also worked on Tsotsi, fit the piece and worked well throughout the picture.

Some of the plotlines were lost along the way. Musa’s cousin Thandi was shown early in a scene that hinted at the fact that she was sexually molested by her school teacher. That same school teacher would die of AIDS later in the movie, but nothing was ever shown about this development other than those two scenes. Also, it appeared Letti and Nobe were both used as devices to move the plot and inserted when they were needed, and it never felt smooth along the way. Add to that, the fact that he never did help his village or his grandmother. Despite small problems, the movie succeeded in presenting a message and doing it in a way that was a little heavy handed but still delivered.

The Package

My biggest problem with the packaging is the description on the back of the DVD case. The description claims “one small voice can be the brave start of colossal change – uniting a village, a township, and even a nation.” Musa never united his village, a township or nation. Nobe helped unite a church and Pieter did so with his trucking company, but if you buy a movie based on the description on the back, this DVD fails to deliver.  Oh, and that giraffe on the front cover does not play a large role in the movie either.

There is a Making-Of Documentary that is nicely put together discussing the influences of the script and the shoot itself. It is a little short but gives you all the information you could want. There is also a trailer.