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Venice Biennale

It would be nice to do something political (AIS 22)

Dresses and Booties
Shorts at the 2004 London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival. By Laura Malacart.
My Son the Bride, by the late South African director Mpumi Njinge, documents Hompi and Charles’ white wedding in a black rural community outside of Johannesburg. With courage and perseverance fuelled by mutual love and the aspiration for social justice, the couple ultimately fulfil their dream. The short is well paced and the mood often changes swiftly, depending on the particular fate of the protagonists at each moment in time, and yet despite their tribulations the tone abides to the ultimate optimistic message of the film. Aside from the thoughts of the protagonists, the film provides a social survey on the gay issues within their community, and here its members have the opportunity to voice their opinions directly to the camera. As one would expect, the answers reflect the individuals’ value system, calling into account politics and (the interpretation of) religious tenets. Hompi’s mother Elizabeth, caught up by prejudice, goes to great lengths to prevent the son’s ‘gayness’ – she attempts at discouraging the son by throwing a pot of burning oil at him and paying a prostitute to sleep with him. The attempts fail miserably as the prostitute also turns out to be gay and the hot oil purge succeeds in scalding Elisabeth’s dog (which upsets her very much). Shortly after and somewhat incoherently, she accepts a ‘lobola’ (sum of money as dowry) from Charles. During her quixotic attempts at boycotting the relationship, she reaches the pastor, who tells her that one must be accepting, and is also disappointed to learn that the council of village elders is more lenient on the matter. Elizabeth is left with her bitter feelings and her prejudice: “one day a cow will give birth to a man!” God is often brought in, either to dismiss or justify the gay wedding: so one person’s “the Bible is against it!” will follow another’s “something involving love only God can explain!” Meanwhile, we learn the Church in South Africa is sufficiently liberal to foster gay weddings and thus meet the pastor of the gay church in Johannesburg, who explains that it is a standard procedure to undergo a five-month counselling programme to ensure that people understand the type of commitment they undertake with marriage. Politically, the social fabric of the village reveals a tolerant if not pro gay attitude especially amongst younger people: Hompi introduces ‘the class of 2001’ as ”the best group I have hung around with so far” immediately, one of the youths proceeds in confirming that they are aware and understand the gay cause. In a voxpop, a man openly declares himself in favour of male homosexuality and his squint thought process adds to the playful tone of the film.
In fact, he explains that due to women’s emancipation thanks to the government, a man might even find himself having to cook, and given that women are now dangerously out of control, he’d much rather be with a man…