Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Film Recommendation - A Tale Of 4 'Carmens'

I caught the tail-end of this last night on the Sundance Film Channel. This is a film I saw 2 years ago, at a film festival, and which I liked, but completely forgot about. So, happening upon it on TV last night was a needed chance encounter, because I now must get my hands on the DVD and watch it again in its entirety, to reacquaint myself with the film.

The film is called U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha, and as you might guess is a retelling of George Bizet's ever popular opera Carmen, set in Khayelitsha, South Africa and sung in Xhosa, a Bantu language. The film, which combines music from the original opera with traditional Bantu music, received the prestigious Golden Bear at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival, and later enjoyed a very limited theatrical release in the US in 2007.

As you all probably know, Carmen has been adapted several times, most recently, and quite unsuccessfully with MTV's Carmen - A Hip Hopera, starring Beyoncé as Carmen, in 2001. Before that, Dorothy Dandrige assumed the role in 1954's Carmen Jones, which, by the way, co-starred Harry Belafonte. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention 2001's Karmen Gei, set in Dakar, Senegal and sung in French and Wolof, with the added complexity that in this specific adaptation, the titular Karmen is bisexual!

I've seen all 4 adaptations, but I'll rewatch all 4 of them again over the next week or two, and review all four simultaneously! That could be a really interesting and rewarding process.

Check them all out, if you haven't. Well, you can skip the MTV version altogether, or just watch it if only for the sake of comparison with the others. All 4 are available on Amazon. Just click each title link above.

Here's the trailer for 2005's U-Carmen, the South African version.


  1. albertine said...

    Haven't seen the South African nor the Senegalese versions. Didn't even knew they existed! I'm going to check them out myself. Thanks!

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