After I first labored for the Costa Rica Worldwide Movie Pageant (CRFIC), again in 2019, one in every of my first duties was to display each single film that was chosen for the pageant. There have been over 60 films from all around the world. A few of them had been fascinating and portrayed realities so completely different from mine. And a few of them had been very summary and gave me a tricky time, and I’ve to confess I even thought of falling asleep with a number of of them. However there was one film that made the whole lot price it.
And that is Kanarie (which suggests “canary” in Afrikaans), a South African film launched in 2018 and directed by Christiaan Olwagen, with a script written by Olwagen and Charl-Johan Lingenfelder. The movie follows the story of Johan, a younger, queer South African boy who loves music (particularly something associated to the brand new wave) through the 80’s, however his life modifications when he is required to hitch the military. This film is a hidden gem, and I’d’ve by no means seen it if it wasn’t for this movie pageant.
Kanarie has one of the crucial iconic opening sequences I’ve ever witnessed. It begins with Johan sporting a marriage robe in the midst of the road, as he lip syncs Bronski Beat’s “Smalltown Boy”. He is Boy George’s #1 fan and he is continuously having these fantasy musical numbers during which he is dressed up just like the Tradition Membership vocalist. He is really having a kind of, till he is interrupted by a actuality examine, when he is knowledgeable he has to hitch the military.
It is all the time been so exhausting for me to know the impression one thing like that may have on an individual as a result of I stay in a rustic the place there isn’t any military. Costa Rica’s military was abolished in 1948, so we do not take part in wars.
Anyway, Johan has to go to conflict, however he goes on his personal phrases. To begin with, he brings his vinyl assortment, together with one in every of his favourite information, Color by Numbers, by Tradition Membership. Moreover, he decides to hitch the “Kanaries”, this militar glee membership that performs conventional songs at each city the troops go to.
Throughout this era, Johan struggles with society’s expectations about masculinity, and he additionally tries to battle the attraction he feels for Wolfgang, one in every of his colleagues. However he is not solely questioning his sexuality, he additionally begins to query his place within the military. What’s he actually combating for?
I am not making a gift of extra particulars in regards to the movie, as a result of I really feel everybody must expertise it. Nevertheless, one of many greatest shocks for me was discovering out the film is semi-biographical. Charl-Johan Lingenfelder, one of many screenwriters I discussed earlier than, based mostly the movie on his personal expertise.
He additionally labored actually exhausting within the music division, bringing to the viewers a number of the music he used to hearken to when he was within the military. The soundtrack contains some hits from Tradition Membership, like “Do You Actually Wanna Harm Me?” and an impressive choral association of “Victims”, and it even options some music by South African artists, like Lesley Rae Dowling. Charl even created a playlist with the music from this period.
I used to be actually excited after I came upon the movie pageant was going to deliver Charl-Johan to Costa Rica as a particular visitor. A visit from South Africa to Costa Rica most likely takes days, so I am unable to think about all the hassle that was made to make that occur. I had the privilege to fulfill him. I obtained to look at the film once more twice in film theaters and I attended all Q&As and even a grasp class he gave.
He is one of many nicest individuals I’ve ever met, so devoted to his craft and so type and humble. We bonded straight away. It seems he is a musical theatre nerd, similar to me. He is labored in plenty of musicals in South Africa, from Cabaret to Kinky Boots. Our backgrounds and contexts could not be extra completely different, however in some way we each spoke the identical language, the language of music and theatre.
I have been capable of communicate with him, and we discuss something, be it native productions of Chicago or my ideas on Taboo, the underappreciated musical by Boy George. He is labored in different tasks ever since Kanarie, together with a South African model of The Seagull and a Christmas musical movie he directed. It is exhausting to have entry to all these movies on this facet of the world, although.
However watching Kanarie was a life-changing expertise. I realized that each act is political, even singing in a refrain; you actually have to decide on your battles and concentrate on the message you are placing on the market on the earth.
A quote from the movie nonetheless resonates in my head. When a woman tells Johan “As quickly as your cage door opens, you fly away”. Whereas Johan was trapped like a canary in a cage, a few of us have the possibility to fly and in some way we nonetheless determine to not do it. Generally we’re prisoners of our personal fears, and all it takes is a leap of religion to take flight.
Due to Kanarie, I additionally had the chance to fulfill Charl-Johan, a “Smalltown boy”, similar to me, whose story modified mine, and whose life is so completely different however in some way just like mine on the identical time.