The South African documentary Lost Tongue is set to premiere at the Socially Relevant Film Festival New York as a ‘surprise’ film. The festival is set to take place between 14 and 21 March.
Only ten documentaries from around the world are playing at the festival and Lost Tongue is one of two selected from Africa. Announcing the selection of the film to its producers this week, the festival committee said the film would be the ‘surprise’ for audiences.
The film is also an official selection at the upcoming Singapore World International Film Festival. Its producers have sealed a non-exclusive distribution deal with US outfit Intellect Picture.
A debut feature presented by South African-based Mvura Ya Afrika (MYA) Productions, Lost Tongue explores a story of hope and revival of the ancient and endangered Nǀuu language of a marginalised indigenous Khomani San people in the Kalahari. The film captures the journey of Helena Steenkamp, a Khomani San woman embarking on a mission to restore her people’s language and identity.
A cultural and spiritual journey reveals the battle through time in the language going extinct. Today, the fight continues with new conflicts against time with the number of surviving people who can speak the language diminishing. Now, arriving at a pivotal juncture, the community must come together and step up their support before the younger Khomani San generations lose the crux of their identity forever.
Funded by MYA Productions and non-profit outfit Entrepreneurship Africa (EA), Lost Tongue is the collaborative vision of coming of age director Davison Mudzingwa and Themba Vilakazi, one of South Africa’s foremost talents in cinematography. Working to bring the picture to the world’s screen are producers, Francis Yannicq of South Africa and U.S. based MeSun Barnett.
Mudzingwa says the inspiration for Lost Tongue came from a previous directorial short film, Bush Trail (2012), which premiered at the Tri- Continental International Film Festival in Johannesburg. Mudzingwa comments, “When we filmed Bush Trail in Kalahari in the Khomani San community, we were surprised that the local people did not speak their language or follow their traditional culture. Out of interest, we began to investigate and a new, exciting and surprising journey for Lost Tongue began.”
According to the producers, Lost Tongu is an “urgently important human rights and cultural project through which global audiences will experience remnants of a discriminatory history still alive today.” Barnett notes, “Never before has the world been this close to universal equality. However, there remains a great deal of progress to be met. It is exactly this that propels our earnest endeavour to share this authentic story to both an unknowing and a more conscious public.”