Reviews

Another Man's Garden

Michael Curtis Nelson

This modern fable vividly captures the plight of women seeking education and a better life in postcolonial Africa.


Another Man's Garden

Director: #227;o Luis Sol de Carvalho
Cast: Gigliola Zacara, Evaristo Abreu, Maria Amélia Pangane, Cristina Salazar, Timóteo Maposse, Filomena Remigio
Distributor: First Run
MPAA rating: Unrated
Display Artist: João Luis Sol de Carvalho
First date: 2006
US DVD Release Date: 2006-01-20

A high school girl who dreams of being a doctor encounters trials and temptations in this modern fable that vividly captures the plight of women seeking education and a better life in postcolonial Africa. Sofia lives in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, the former Portuguese colony on the southeast coast of Africa that achieved independence in 1974, and that remains poor and underdeveloped. Traditional attitudes towards women’s roles in the family and community still prevail; the film’s title comes from a proverb, “sending a girl to school is like watering another man’s garden”.

The film follows several months in Sofia’s life as she attempts to complete high school with grades high enough to get her into university. There are plenty of obstacles; personal, familial, societal. Her boyfriend, interested only in his own ambitions to play professional soccer, is jealous of Sofia’s educational goals and pressures her to quit school and marry him. Sofia’s mother only grudgingly supports her daughter’s education, and encourages her to work instead at the local quarry where she herself is employed.

Sofia’s teacher catches her passing exam answers to a classmate, and threatens to fail her unless she has sex with him, a practice so common at the school that Sofia’s best friend Jessica refers to trading sex for favors as using a “credit card”. All these conflicts reach a crisis, but are only partially resolved, and the film ends on a modest note of hope for Sofia’s future.

Jessica, with ambitions to be a fashion model, Sofia’s mother and grandmother, and Jessica’s older sister, a doctor, offer a range of female roles for the young woman, as well as an instructive survey of the possible futures for black girls in Mozambique. The limitations to the assistance they can offer Sofia in the face of entrenched sexism and paternalism powerfully underscore the precarious nature of the young woman’s dream.

Like much cinema from developing countries, Another Man’s Garden provides stark contrasts. Cinematic realism complements the features of traditional storytelling (shots of city streets and shantytown blocks, frank discussions of the prevalence of HIV), including parables from the animal world (wildlife footage interrupts the story frequently to stress the analogy established early between Sofia and the impala, which can delay birth or even abort its young, when threatened), and stock characters like Sofia’s wise, aphorism-spouting grandmother.

But for all the traditional elements, Sofia is a complex character whose imperfections might shock Western audiences used to a strong dose of morality in films dealing with teens. She helps another student cheat on an exam, and steals a shirt from a market vendor after she has scorched hers with an iron. She has an established sexual relationship with her boyfriend, which the film presents as a medical threat, given the dangers of unprotected sex, not a moral failing.

Low-budget production values occasionally impinge on the film’s effect. Another Man’s Garden is shot on video, and some of the cast appear to be amateurs, or at least actors unused to film. In terms of plot, these limitations work to the film’s advantage; there are no wasted scenes, and the action is well paced.

The video image lacks depth, however, and makes interior scenes especially look flat and stagy. Daytime crowd scenes work best, where video lends the freshness and vitality of documentary footage. Sound can be a problem at times: while the dialog is clear, music is often distorted.

Another Man’s Garden is the first feature from director, co-writer, and executive producer João Luis Sol de Carvalho, a journalist, photographer, and film and television producer. The film is part of the Global Lens film series, which “promotes cross-cultural understanding through cinema” with yearly tours of the US of “films from developing countries”. For more information, go to GlobalFilm.org.

The Global Lens Film Series aims to place its films in classrooms, and the DVD contains a pdf of instructional materials, including a brief history of Mozambique, maps and statistics, a biography of the director, and the director’s notes about the film. While the section on film aesthetics is rudimentary, appropriate for high school, perhaps, but certainly too simplistic for college, the discussion questions would be helpful to a teacher using the film in a university class. DVD extras include a trailer for films in the 2007 Global Lens film series, and a showcase of series titles.

6

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image