IDFA OFFICIAL SELECTION 2011 - Forerunners soulfully explores what it means to be black and middle class in South Africa today. At the frontier of unprecedented social change, Miranda, Mpumi, Martin and Karabo are part of the first generation of black South Africans to rise from poverty and join the country’s ‘middle class’.
They delicately balance the traditional views of their childhood with the western consumerism that rules their professional lives, selecting and discarding elements from each world to forge a new legacy for their descendants. Forerunners is cinematic and experimental. The film has an ethereal feel; the slant of light signals the presence of ancestral spirits and a new dawn. The gentle motif of the wind throughout the film reminds us that the past is always carried with us. The stillness and dream-like tone allow the viewer to consider the beauty in the ordinary and the impact of each passing moment.
“Middle Class? I’m guilty…”
Tension builds as the characters grapple to find peace with their personal success amidst huge inequalities within the country, and even within their own families. They are not yet rich, but are certainly better off than the impoverished majority. The excitement of heralding a new era lingers, bittersweet.
The internal conflicts facing the characters are emphasised using carefully composed imagery of rural and urban, rich and poor. Empty spaces reflect the narrative and serve to show what has been left behind – the echo of ancestors. Weaving through these images the film suggests the elastic push and pull of a society in a state of flux, struggling to forge a new identity.
Will the values they have inherited become irrelevant in 21st century Africa? Or can their heritage become a propelling force of strength with which to face the challenges to come?