MLUNGU WAM (2021)
Single mother Tsidi has fallen on hard times. She and her daughter move in with her estranged mother, Mavis, a domestic worker for the ailing, wealthy “Madam” Diane. Mavis is obsessed with her duties, basically living in 24-7 servitude, which disturbs Tsidi. Equally disturbing are the eerie, unexplained occurrences and strange changes in her daughter that Tsidi begins noticing as she settles into life in Diane’s huge home. Tsidi wants to liberate her mother from the psychological and physical burdens of continuing to care for Diane, but she soon realizes that their bond is deeper and more twisted than anything she could have imagined.
The newest film from South African auteur Jenna Cato Bass dives deep into the aftershocks of apartheid in this atmospheric thriller. Co-written with Babalwa Baartman, the film ties the horrors of the past to the psychic scars and ongoing trauma that reverberate through the generations. Chumisa Cosa is phenomenal as Tsidi, anchoring the film with her nuanced performance. A thoughtful, chilling slow burn, the film rewards patient viewers, subtly ramping up the tension and revealing hidden depths. MLUNGU WAM continues and builds on the grand tradition of horror film as social commentary in an especially effective, and equally spooky way. (LISA DREYER)