Love is strange and that’s exactly what I took away from Tsepiso Mahase’s short film titled GRAPEFRUIT. The short film packs a lovely punch for a seven-minute feature, delivering an unsettling, unnerving piece of artwork that’s got me excited to see what Mahase has in store for us next.
The film is set in Lesotho, which makes sense since Tsepiso is from there too, at first glance GRAPEFRUIT might seem like another love story set in the rural parts of a country but at second glance, you’ll see how dark it really is, I mean it’s about cannibals after all.
Reminding me of Julia Ducournau’s Raw which also featured cannibalistic characters, what makes GRAPEFRUIT unique for me is how it portrayed the subject matter. Where most films would decide to go full on graphic and try to make our stomachs upset by showing us all the blood and gore, but here Tsepiso and her team create this highly saturated unnerving world where the camerawork from Yanga Ngam is enough to get one’s stomach churning from the uneasiness of it all.
We are cannibals, we eat people!
We eat thee, we eat people
We eat the brains of a dog
And that of a little child
We eat the fingers of people
We eat the fat of mankind
Thou toy of the man-eaters
Thou delicious morsel
Strike, strike him down, my comrades – a stanza from a song collected by Thomas Abbousett.
Speaking to Tsepiso about the inspiration behind the film, she mentions that she just had an opening shot and location in mind (I’m sure most filmmakers can relate), and her craving for grapefruit at the time lead to what we have now. This being Tsepiso’s first work outside of film school, it was really important to find the right people to work with.
The cinematography is stunning and really highlights the magnificent beauty that is Lesotho, the oversaturation of the imagery is perfect as it gives off this uneasy feeling which accompanies the eerie score pretty feel. The score! Oh my God, from the get-go it sets the mood of the film, and though the narrative takes its time in getting to the point, the score makes you wait in anticipation for that big climax.
We are Basotho and understand who we are. But we seem to lack confidence when it comes to telling our own stories and prefer celebrating foreign stories. There are plenty of fresh ideas. The challenge is with the directors or decision makers who do not appreciate new concepts due to fear of the risk that comes with making such decisions. But the problem is, how then do we know what we have and our capacity if we are not willing to take a plunge and see what happens? – Tsepiso Mahase says in the Lesotho Times
During the little talk with Tsepiso, she went on to mention the peaking interest in cinema in her homeland of Lesotho and she says that it’s great meaning that more people will be making films. Her only wish is for funding and resources to be made available so that the industry can flourish, seeing Lesotho being rich in culture, language and incredible landscapes she knows that stunning poetic cinema can emerge from it.
I for one cannot wait to watch more of these films and if Tsepiso’s GRAPEFRUIT is anything to by, her next project (which might start production in the next three months) will be a visual pleaser with a narrative that sticks on you long after you’ve watched the film.
Written By Linda Radebe.