A film by Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese

In the breath-taking mountains of land-locked Lesotho, an 80-year-old widow winds up her  earthly affairs, makes arrangements for her burial, and prepares to die. But when her village is threatened with forced resettlement due to the construction of a reservoir, she finds a new will to live and ignites a collective spirit of defiance within her community. In the final dramatic moments of her life, Mantoa’s legend is forged and made eternal.

This is a personal story for you. Can you tell us about your development process?
Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese: When I was a child, my family was evicted from our home. My grandmother’s village is  undergoing forced resettlement right now. My experience of displacement has significantly  impacted who I am and how I see the world. I was fortunate to be incubated at the Realness  African Screenwriter’s Residency early on in my development process. There I became part of  a cinematic family who are rooted in Africa and I was able to make sense of all these ideas  and feelings that I was giving birth to. 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 my producers, Cait and Elias, who are the founders of this initiative. They both  believed in me from the beginning and their passion was the driving force behind  ‘Resurrection’. 

This is a tough film, thematically and technically since you were shooting in remote  locations. And you are depicting stories of actions against indigenous people. How did you  work through these risks and challenges? 
Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese: It was a very rough, unforgiving landscape we shot in and yet so beautiful. The weather  drastically changed constantly, one minute it was sunny and hot and the next we were  drenched by torrents of rain and it was dark and cold. We had to wrestle with the gods of  nature not just to shoot, but also to get to the next location. It worked in our favour somehow;  we kept shooting throughout the storms and we managed to use the footage from this in the  film. When the rain stopped, we had to then deal with slippery hills covered in deep mud.  

Mary, our lead actress, who was 80 years old, had to be carried back and forth up a long hill  by crew members and men from the village. At particularly remote locations, we had to send  her on horseback. There were no proper roads and when it rained, our vehicles would often  get stuck or break down completely. I was incredibly grateful for the talented and passionate  zealots around me. We really went to war together. 

Cait Pansegrouw, the film’s producer, lives up to her nickname ‘Sheela” (as in Ma Anand  Sheela that I learnt about through the documentary series ‘Wild Wild Country’); she is really  a cult leader. She kept everyone focused. She is not just a producer, she is also creative. I  come from the school of underground cinema. It is very rare to have producer who not only  understands but also appreciates that kind of cinema. 

The cinematographer, Pierre de Villiers, was ready and primed to work under extreme  conditions that allowed little to no freedom. In a way, the ideal conditions conspired in our  favour. Gods are frequently seen in such places.  

How did you work with your actors filming those scenes, getting them into that headspace  and providing them the right kind of on-set atmosphere? 
Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese: One thing I kept stressing was they shouldn’t act. A few of the leads came from a South African  television background, so they had preconceived ideas about their characters and had picked  up some habits that of course got them to where they are now in their careers, but that I  wanted to strip away for this film. I talked with them about not doing anything. On my set  they are objects, not characters. As for the rest of the local cast, they were not professionals,  they had never been on camera, and this was beautiful part because they came as they were.  We were shooting in their village. We were their guests. Of course, it took a bit of work to get them in front of the camera and make them comfortable. I would talk to them in the context  of their actual village and their way of life, not necessarily about the role that they were  fulfilling on screen. 

When you envisioned ‘Resurrection’ in your head, before any shooting began, how did it  look? 
Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese: For me, it was always an observation about life and death. The initial whisperings of  ‘Resurrection’ spawned from this parable that I wrote about a mute prophet who could not  speak his prophecies. He had rhema and logos about the soulless march of time and death,  but when he opened his mouth, hail and frogs would flood from it and it was too sickening to  behold or withstand. 

In a way, this illustrated how I feel as a creator who struggles to communicate his ideas in a way that is accessible to others. With ‘Resurrection’ I felt as though I had an entire ocean of  ideas. They were vast and massive. I am pleased to say that we managed to realise some of  them in our film. 

The subject matter has more significance and urgency today. Did your journey as a writer  and filmmaker shift or evolve over the years, in the way you engaged with the material?
Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese: I think it evolved. With a team around me, I was able to refine what I wanted to create. The  concept of life, death and the cycle of time has always been something that has preoccupied  my mind. I am obsessed with the human condition. To me, the most poetic landscape is the human and our constant battle to reconcile with our carnal selves. The foundation of what I  wanted to explore was always within me, but how I chose to explore it was continually  distilled. 

Can you talk about your process as creative collaborators with producer Cait Pansegrouw  and the team? 
Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese: We had the whole village community of Ha Dinizulu behind us, willing to ‘go places’ with us.  I am forever grateful for the work that they put into the film. Cait is a force of nature. She has  an iron fist covered in velvet glove. She knows when to say things with a smile and when to  say things with a snarl, to keep us sailing to our true north, always. She comes from a film  school background and yet she is not pigeonholed by structure or technique or know-how.  She believes in art. Among other neurodivergent impediments I am battling dyslexia, and it  can be hard for me to communicate clearly.  

Cait and I were synchronized from the start. We were both very clear about what kind of work  we wanted to make. Pierre de Villiers, my cinematographer, a beautiful, creative human  being, had an iron will to go all the way, always. It was inspiring. At times I think I was  confusing, my thoughts always seem flawless and complete in my head, but when I actually  say things out loud, they can sound incoherent. 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 Letela. My Basotho brothers. I am used to working in isolation. 

My previous film ‘Mother, I am suffocating. This is my last film about you’ is an essay film. I  had a small local crew that had no clue what I was doing, but who provided extra hands on  the day so that I could execute what I wanted. In that way I felt safe because they couldn’t  question anything or doubt me. With ‘Resurrection’ I had to work with a professional crew. It was beautiful to get out of my comfort zone and get to talk back and forth about ideas and  have everyone on one page. 

What informs your choice of camera and technology, and what techniques do you do to  bring out the beauty in your imagery? 
Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese: I come on set or to the page as a novice, an amateur. I have 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. Of course, this comes with years of making bad art. As far as the camera and  composition, Pierre, my DP, and I had synchronised love and passion for beauty. He 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 we should use, which was the Sony Venice. It served us best in low light  conditions since we did not have much lighting gear. We had to make do with the little we  had in no-man’s land. What do you hope audiences will take away with them after seeing the  film? I hope the audience will walk into this film with no preconceived ideas. Specifically, as  an African filmmaker who set out to explore new forms of cinema.  

I wanted to develop a new cinematic language. I was heavily inspired by Brechtian Theatre,  which recognised the ability of Naturalistic theatre to have great social influence, but at the  expense of its capacity to arouse aesthetic pleasure. 

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. What are you ideally seeking in a distributor who might be interested in the film? I  earnestly hope that our film finds the right home. It would be amazing to work with a  distributor that is not pigeonholed by preconceived ideas about what African cinema should  be. I would like for everyone that works with us towards unleashing our film into the world to  appreciate it for what it is and to do what’s necessary for it to have a healthy life.

About Lesotho 
Lesotho, a high-altitude, landlocked kingdom encircled by South Africa, is crisscrossed by a  network of rivers and mountain ranges. The tiny country’s mountain ranges make up nearly  three quarters of its terrain and these are responsible for its abundance of water, believed to  be among the highest quality in the world.  

Annually, Lesotho annually exports an estimated 780 million cubic metres of water to South  Africa; this marks Africa’s largest water transfer scheme in history. 

As more and more reservoirs are built, thousands of highland villagers are forcibly removed  from their land and relocated to urban living environments. There they not only lose their  livestock, crops and way of life, but also their individual and collective identity.

Starring 
MARY TWALA MHLONGO 
JERRY MOFOKENG WA MAKHETHA 
MAKHAOLA NDEBELE 
TSEKO MONAHENG 
SIPHIWE NZIMA 

Casting  
CAIT PANSEGROUW 
MOONYEENN LEE 

Music  
YU MIYASHITA 

Sound Design  
PRESSURE COOKER STUDIOS 

Editor 
LEMOHANG JEREMIAH MOSESE 

Cinematography 
PIERRE DE VILLIERS 

Production Design  
LEILA WALTER 

Costume Design 
NAO SERATI 

Screenplay  
LEMOHANG JEREMIAH MOSESE 

Producers 
CAIT PANSEGROUW 
ELIAS RIBEIRO