Arts Festival

There’s a Starman waiting in the sky … or is there?

KOOK or mother of an alien baby? Elizabeth Klarer is the central focus to Uga Carlini’s documentary Beyond the Light Barrier , which features at this year’s Hilton Arts Festival.

SHE WAS ONE of the South African media’s darlings from the 1950s with her tales of aliens, UFOs and her own abduction and seduction, pregnancy and childbearing. It was a story too good to be true for news editors, journos and cynics alike and even if you were a baby during that time, the name Elizabeth Klarer (1910-1994) and those images of what could be a kitchen pot tossed in the air and captured as a mysterious flying saucer on film will quite likely be somewhere in the annuls of your memory. In what may be the binding threads or the central dinner conversations of this year’s Hilton Arts Festival, from 11 to 13 August, Uga Carlini’s filmed documentary Beyond the Light Barrier, features. It runs in tandem with Paul Slabolepszy’s play, Finding Rosetta, on the same topic.

And with a combination of images evocative of the work of modernist artist Roy Lichtenstein and his Ben Day dots, some ‘woo-woo’ sense of mystery contained in its music, lighting and questions, and a bunch of talking heads that are both credulous and incredulous, not to forget a gorgeous egg chair, the film is deeply entertaining. It’s not, however, a slavish account of Klarer’s experiences, nor does it totally pooh-pooh them. In short, it’s a balanced narrative, spiced with levity and frowns, John Kani’s presence as narrator and performer and some quirky illustrations that contains it as a workable tale beautifully told.

Without missing a beat, the work observes that the sculpture of the alien in question, make according to Klarer’s memories and instructions, strangely feline in its exaggerated features, evokes the face of Klarer herself. Credo Mutwa brings in lines to the take which lend heart and substance to Klarer’s claims, but it is her earthly son David who tosses doubt on the edges of this fantastic tale, given of course that he may or may not, have an alien brother, conceived and birthed by his mum on an extra-terrestrial trip one day in 1959.

There are several rather odd red herrings in the tale concerning gestation periods and other fine corroborating scientific knowhow, to say nothing of some delicious xenophobic faux pas on the part of Klarer herself, who articulates clear racial thinking but advocates consorting with aliens as quite fine. However, like the music medium, Rosemary Brown, who was given to conducted seances in the 1970s and channel long dead composers, Klarer, an ordinary woman by all (other) accounts, spouts reflections on electro-magnetics and the way in which planets operate that seem out of character.

The film is quirky and balanced, interesting and provocative, without making a total fool of Klarer and also without blanketly rubbishing her notion that there are other sentient beings out there. Important links to Paul Slabolepszy’s new play Finding Rosetta, are forged here, which make the contents of the play all the more tantalising. The solution? Come to the Hilton Arts Festival in August and see them both.

Beyond the Light Barrier is written, directed and produced by Uga Carlini. Narrated by Dr John Kani, it features creative input by Georgia Court (cinematography), Joe de Ornelas (editor), Charl-Johan Lingenfelder (composer), Inka Kendzia (director of animation), Carmen Ziervogel (illustrations) and Catherine Grenfell (sound design). It will be screened during the Hilton Arts Festival 2023, in Lecture Theatre B on Saturday 12 August at 10am.

Finding Rosetta is written by Paul Slabolepszy, directed by William le Cordeur and stars Annie Robinson-Grealy. It performs in the Hilton’s Memorial Hall, on Saturday 12 August at 2pm and Sunday 13 August at 10am.


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