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Rites of passage

Rites of passage

A South African film challenging traditional masculinity. Plus. Peru’s multilingual TV and Liberia’s most irreverent comedian 

A South African film challenging traditional masculinity. Plus. Peru’s multilingual TV and Liberia’s most irreverent comedian 

October/November 2017

Speaking to the nation
Although the country has 47 indigenous languages, until recently news broadcasts in Peru were only in Spanish. Conservative critics have long argued that everyone should speak Spanish, and that those who do not are condemned to poverty. But last December TV Peru began broadcasting an hour of news in Quechua (spoken by over 10% of the population). In April it added a similar programme in Aymara, the next most widely spoken language. In less than a year, TV Peru’s news audience share has increased almost tenfold. For the first time these viewers are watching programming created for them, addressing key regional issues. Now producers are realising this is a business opportunity, as well as the right thing to do, more will surely follow – TV Peru has plans to introduce Amazonian languages next year.

Let them eat cake
The wedding this summer of two of the wealthiest scions of the long-ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) was designed to go viral, teased online with a “pre-wedding trailer”, “The Love & Honour of Sokan & Leakhena”. Social-media users were riveted by the spectacle of the couple’s “Khmer Riche” lifestyle, the camera panning over their diplomas, his Patek Phillipe watch, and even the balance sheet of her family firm. It was also a relentlessly on-message branding exercise, showing the groom campaigning for the CPP before meeting the bride for a twirl in her mansion’s pseudo-baroque ballroom. Cambodians were split over whether it was a tantalising glimpse into the world of the local elite, or an outrage in a country where the average daily income is around $3.

Mountain men
“Inxeba” (“The Wound”) has drawn praise from critics in South Africa for its unusual take on the coming-of-age story. In the remote Eastern Cape, Xhosa boys “go to the mountain” to become men. But some South Africans accused the director, who is white, of revealing secrets of a culture that is not his own – and winning awards for doing so. “Inxeba” also tested boundaries with its tender depiction of a gay love story between two caretakers of the initiates, challenging traditional notions of African masculinity. The film seems to have pressed the right buttons, though: it won both best director and best actor at the Durban film festival in the summer.

Paradise lost
Child marriage is rising in Lebanon, particularly among vulnerable Syrian refugees. The writers of “Nour” drew on over 50 interviews with child brides, to chilling effect. Nour spends her summer picnicking and innocently flirting with a local boy. But on her 15th birthday, she learns she is to marry Maurice, a rich middle-aged man who lives with his overbearing mother. Overnight, childish pranks give way to abuse and confinement. The film has been so popular that the distributors had to arrange extra screenings. In October it will be shown in rural community centres and schools. Tender and tragic, “Nour” is a powerful weapon for the campaign to increase the marriageable age to 18.

Nothing is sacred
Jerrison Kromah is Liberia’s most irreverent character comedian. The Pentacostal former rapper has caused outrage with his bewigged impersonations of Jesus, Moses and St Peter. At the height of the Ebola epidemic, his portrayal of an irate angel refusing to appear in Liberia for fear of the disease went viral. In the run-up to October’s general election, his latest series, “Campaign Season”, skewered electioneering politicians. Loved for his use of colloqua, Liberia’s local patois, Kromah spares no one, from the bastions of power to the street. Thanks to social media, the Liberian diaspora around the world watches him religiously.

Behind the curtain
It has both a president and a prime minister, but Poland's real leader is Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the divisive head of the governing party, who goes by the title of prezes, or chairman. As the far-right Law and Justice party chips away at democracy, “Ucho Prezesa” ("The Chairman's Ear"), a slick online series, satirises this strange political arrangement. Priests, businessmen and bureaucrats converge on the chairman's office, bearing gifts of homemade dumplings, to haggle over policy, while the hapless president is kept waiting outside. (British readers may be reminded of the 1980s sitcom, “Yes Minister”.) It has been hugely successful; the first episode has been watched over 9m times on YouTube. Even Kaczynski is said to have watched it.

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