Take an old and revolting story of disrespect and abuse, of entrenched behaviour and broken dreams. Put it into the mouth and sensibilities of young filmmakers and you may find yourself in the presence of an unexpected bit of pure poetry. This is what you can anticipate in Jane Mpholo’s short film, Cleanse, which is currently doing the international festival circuit, and will be available to interested readers who contact Mpholo directly
Like stories of the ilk of Stephanie Land’s limited Netflix series, Maid, Cleanse tells a tight tale – in just 10:27 minutes – of dependency and cruelty, privilege and want; it takes Hegel’s master/slave relationship and scrutinises it under the light of a South African lamp. It is carefully made with a strong sense of detail, a peppering of history and feminist values, rudeness and the seethe of unexpressed anger, as well as much underlying thought about themes, languages and parallels which are satisfying on the eye and heart. It touches on clichéd images and references but doesn’t stumble too far down that path. Water flows through this work with acuity and venom, danger and a sense of the benign, as it paints a portrait of self-care, body fluids, love and hate, that skirts on the brink of the metaphorical as it flows through the detritus of apartheid history, without becoming preachy or obvious.
Set in the Free State, it places the young white ‘baas’ (Nico Taljaard) opposite his hapless young black maid Maria (Mpholo) in the face of the boring grind of domestic routine: Cook, clean, iron, wash, etc. A story of skid marks and dreams of warfare, this is a simple yet complex, poignant piece that doesn’t kowtow to sweetness and holds its sense of integrity in clear place.
Cleanse is directed by Patrick T Peni and features performances by Beauty Mlokoti ka Plaatjies, Mosa Keketsi, Werner Shiraz Morris, Jane Mpholo and Nico Taljaard. In Sesotho, Afrikaans and English, with English subtitles, it is written by Jane Mpholo. Produced by Phillimon Mehlape, it features creative input by Patrick T Peni (cinematography), Lindiwe Meile (make up) and Vincent Tsoametsi (lighting). The film is making waves on international film festival circuits and will be available on demand to viewers who contact Mpholo directly, here.