Fiche Film
LONG Métrage | 2005
Carmen (U-Carmen eKhayelitsha)
Titre original : Carmen de Khayelitsha
Date de sortie en France : 05/04/2006
Pays concerné : Afrique du Sud
Support : 35 mm
Durée : 120 minutes
Genre : musical
Type : fiction


Adaptation de l’opéra de Georges Bizet « Carmen » parlé et chanté en Xhosa, transposant les amours de Carmen et de Don José dans un township d’Afrique du Sud aujourd’hui. Aujourd’hui, á Khayelitsha, un township d’Afrique du Sud.

Carmen, jeune femme au caractère bien trempé, travaille dans une fabrique de cigarette et répète pendant son temps libre avec ses amies dans une chorale. Au cours d’une ronde de police, elle jette une rose au brigadier Jongikhaya. Après une rixe avec une autre ouvrière elle est arrêtée par Jongikhaya et lui fait du charme pour qu’il la libère. Elle s’enfuit puis rencontre le célèbre chanteur d’opéra Lulamile Nkomo, revenu au pays : ils tombent amoureux au premier regard. Le drame annoncé ne peut alors se dénouer que dans un paroxysme de jalousie et de violence.

Pauline Malefane (Carmen), Andile Tshoni (Jongikhaya), Ntobeko Rqwana (Sergent Mongezi), Lungelwa Blou (Nomakhaya), Zweilungile Sidloyi, Andiswa Kedama (un laboureur),…


Georges Bizet’s Carmen first premiered in Paris on March 3, 1875 and has reputedly since become the most performed opera in the world. Originally based on Prosper Merimee’s novella and adapted into a libretto by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, Carmen was set in a slum area of Seville and tells a visceral tale of love, jealousy, revenge, desire and madness. Carmen deals with the bleaker side of human nature, all the while celebrating its invincible spirit. It is this thrilling combination, along with its extraordinary music that has generated its timeless appeal.

Its characters are complex: Carmen is far more than the stereotypical’femme fatale’ – she is a sensual independent woman whose fierce determination and indomitable spirit, even in the face of death, make her a compelling figure and an icon in the popular imagination.

The narrative traces the destruction of a woman who cannot and will not become what men want her to be and culminates in one of the most gripping and tragic finales of all time.

Converting grand opera into an entirely different medium and language was a daunting task. The co writers and translators Mark Dornford-May, Andiswa Kedama and Pauline Malefane however, embraced this challenge with enthusiastic zest. Their collaborative efforts resulted in a screenplay that manages to remain remarkably faithful to the original plot and yet presents an authentic slice of township life.

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha relies on three components: the cast, the context and the music.

The core cast members are all from Dimpho Di Kopane (DDK), an ensemble lyric theatre company that has achieved tremendous international acclaim. The 40 member company was started in 2000 through an unprecedented recruitment process. Two thousand auditions were held in townships throughout South Africa. Most of the performers had never previously been inside a theatre let alone on a stage or in front of a camera. The diversity of DDK’s cultures, races and experiences enables it to create work of the highest calibre. It is their combined efforts and collective focus which creates a unique environment in which each member of the company plays an integral part.

The film is set in present day Khayelitsha, one of South Africa’s largest townships, situated approximately 20km outside of Cape Town. The dynamic energy and heat of Khayelitsha creates an authentic, graphic and textured aesthetic for the unfolding of the story. Indeed, the vibrant structures, and the unique qualities of the township, provide a spectacular backdrop for the pulsating rhythms and seductively sinuous melodies that made Bizet’s Carmen so popular.

Bizet’s music, translated and sung in Xhosa, mixed with traditional song, gives the film a thrilling synthesis of Xhosa culture and European opera. A dynamic orchestra of young South Africans was assembled especially to record it.

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha contrasts love and obsession, duty and desire, ultimately a work that addresses universal themes in a particular cultural context.

This impressive and entertaining interpretation of George Bizet’s
classic opera relocates the action to Khayelitsha, a shantytown in
South Africa. Framed within an atmospheric environment of gangsters
and shebeens, this passionate retelling of the love affair between
Carmen and Don José is a celebration of South African dramatic art
at its best. Professionally sung in native Xhosa and featuring a truly
outstanding performance from Pauline Malefane in the title role, the
film has captured the imaginations of audiences the world over.

Mark Dornford-May. South Africa. 2005. 122 mins. Xhosa with
english subtitles.
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