It’s Christmas day.
She’s waiting for him like every other day since his departure to the mine. Only today he will arrive – it’s Christmas day.
Mantoa is in her eighties. She is a widow and has lost both her daughter and her granddaughter too. As she stands outside her home, observing the youth return to their Lesotho mothers, she figures her son might not ever return from the coal mine.
Confronted with the loss of a child she speaks little, utters nothing. In silence, in grief, she is confined. As from that moment, instead of waiting for her son, she’ll wait to die. She’ll hope to die in a beautiful Victorian dress, to be buried with her family.
Mantoa’s one pledge to God is to be buried in the soils in which her family rests, but God is too indifferent to care. It is not only the bodies of her loved ones what lie underground, but their spirits too. Women in Lesotho bury their placenta, their umbilical cords after giving birth. In this way, the soil they step on constitutes their identity. Is God, by being negligent towards Mantoa’s pledge, ignoring the spirits in the soil?
The cemetery constitutes the communal memory of the village. Thus, when Mantoa is denied her grave, she mounts a resurrection.
Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, visual artist and director, has been dealing with these big questions, which he understands to be natural, from a very young age. ‘I remember the first question that I asked my mother was (…) what happens to us when we die?’ he recalls in a Q&A with Film at Lincoln Center. This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection reflects upon the human condition; birth, growth, death, belonging, memory… and the defiance of the human spirit against these essential characteristics.
Immersed in the remote mountain kingdom of Lesotho, disguised as an old shepherd or a member of the procession, Burial tells a story of tensions invoking beautiful audio-visual images. The main narration is juxtaposed with shots of a very ritualistic, almost mystical storyteller who accompanies his prose with the sounds of a lesiba – a traditional instrument particularly found in Lesotho. ‘Can you play?’ asked Mosese when he came across a musician playing it in the surroundings of where he was shooting. The player told him that it is only when the sun sets that he can play. ‘I fell in love with this idea’, Mosese confesses in a conversation with the California Film Institute.
The feelings that Burial evokes are at times those of anguish and fear with the underlying resilience of hope. From these feelings paintings are created in every shot. Whether it’s the natural landscape, or the human landscape occupying the screen, every shot is made sure to have a stunning, beautiful visual composition. I can thus only recommend what Mosese recommends himself: To sit down and look at the drawings on the wall.
Written by Martine Wu