Beautifully shot and patiently constructed, Meanwhile in Mamelodi offers a glimpse into the life of tuck shop keeper, Steven Mtsweni and his family during the 2010 World Cup of soccer. The Mtswenis live in what they describe as the “shack side” of Extension 11, one of the poorest districts in the township of Mamelodi, South Africa.
The family’s struggles and hopes for a better future run parallel to their anticipation of the World Cup, and especially of the host nation’s performance. Steven’s face – throughout an icon of austere perseverance in light of the deepest poverty – bursts out with joy when South Africa scores their first goal. His daughter Moskito’s aspirations to become a professional footballer are magnified by the excitement rippling throughout the township with the calls of vuvuzelas. “Can you feel it?” asks Steven. “It is gone.”
As the film’s title suggests, the World Cup ultimately comes and goes, leaving Mamelodi exactly where it was before the tournament. The film does not, however, hold on a cynical note, giving as much voice to the Mtswenis’ humanity and complex personalities as it does to issues of extreme poverty and inequality that still plague post-Apartheid South Africa.
Meanwhile in Mamelodi is a surprisingly subtle and engaging documentary, despite its heavy subject matter. This is an especially impressive accomplishment considering it was director Benjamin Kahlmeyer’s graduating project from the Baden-Wuerttemberg Film Academy. Mamelodi is a promising start for the young filmmaker.
Meanwhile in Mamelodi screens this Friday (April 27) at the TIFF Bell Lightbox and this Saturday (April 28) at the Cumberland.