26 November 2005 | noralee
Warm and Charming Look at Multi-Cultural Post-Apartheid South Africa
"Cape of Good Hope" is the most charming, romantic, women-centered, multi-cultural urban dramedy since "What's Cooking."
Yes husband and wife collaborators Mark Bamford and Suzanne Kay Bamford draw some of the characters as too good (Eriq Ebouaney's "Jean Claude LeReve" is beyond Sidney Poitier in "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" as literally a Renaissance Man) or too evil, and some of the connections among them are as forced in propinquity as "Crash," but I live in a large city of ethnic neighborhoods and coincidences like these can really happen. And it's a pleasure to see a film about the realities of age, gender, religion, race and class in contemporary South Africa -- including Muslims, Hindus, refugees, emigrants, Afrikaners, Christian blacks --in a humanistic, non-strident approach.
This roundelay of couples and their families have been as touched by the vagaries of universal human fate as by African politics. Each character prejudges another by their appearance or circumstance, and each is psychologically damaged by past relationships, and has amusing human foibles, pretensions or sweet ambitions that are realistically compromised. It is noteworthy that the characters are not the usual young 'uns in the throes of Romeo and Juliet-like first love, but wary, experienced adults who are incrementally challenging boundaries.
While the individuals' stories radiate out of their connections to a dog shelter as in J.M. Coetzee's bitter South African novel "Disgrace," the irony of anecdotes like a dog that was trained to attack blacks or the insistence of potential adoptive owners for a purebred instead of the affectionate mutts or the veterinarian widower who longingly whispers after the woman in charge "rescue ME", is a gentle look at the complicated post-apartheid city. All now have to learn to co-exist, and even become friends, as each person takes a step forward and brings their families with them. And, yeah, you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The acting by men, women and child is very natural across several languages. Accented English is their cross-cultural communication, but in the heat of moments with their own, each resorts to their native tongue. While it is lovely to see different neighborhoods in Capetown, the human experiences are universal. For example, the educational, economic and romantic strivings of immigrants are similar to what we saw in "Hester Street."
There is only a little music, but it adds to the commentary on local interactions with the global culture.
The conclusion may be a bit too idealistic, but by that point the characters have all been fully established and their actions do feel right for those appealing individuals. I don't even like dogs, but it does sweetly make one believe that it is possible that individuals will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.