The short film “Five Tiger” debuted at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. To discuss the themes of this powerful film I sat down virtually with the film’s writer and director Nomawonga Khumalo. This was her debut film and it was indeed a powerful piece that managed to pack a lot into a short window.
Synopsis: A God-fearing woman in present-day South Africa finds herself in a transactional relationship as she tries to support her sick husband and daughter.
Why did you choose to focus on the role of religion in this context?
Religion (and its many forms and origins) is an intrinsic part of who we are as Africans and has governed our senses due to mass indoctrination over the years. The morphing of religion and African culture resulted in religion having roots impossible to sever without hacking those of Africanism. It has become intertwined with our identity and before we can begin to undo it, we must understand it from as many angles as possible.
I’m happy to break from the “White man and the Bible” perspective of Christianity, even at times advocating for the role it plays in tranquilizing harsh realities, if it brings the audience closer to understanding what hold it has over people. In a world where archetypes represent thousands, and one picture speaks for twenty-four others, it’s important to understand religion from the perspective of one. Without understanding the balance between religion and identity, race & culture, one is only looking at half the picture.
What were some of the constraints in making this film?
Budget is something you can never have enough of and was certainly a limiting factor but we were fortunate enough to have people give their time and efforts freely to realizing this dream.
The pandemic was also piqued when we were going into post-production. So, not only is this my debut film but now there is also a new, vastly different way of interacting in this space, a protocol I wasn’t quite privy to yet. That was hard.
Are you holding the knife on the sharp side?
The beauty imagery of rural South Africa is an ironic backdrop to this story of sacrifice and selflessness. It made me think of the many women in my family that I’ve worked with who have often seemed to be living a life of silent pain masked by beauty. This movie brings to mind questions about womanhood, the roles women play in their societies and households, and the burdens that go along with those roles.
If you’re reading this and you’re a woman, ask yourself if you are being honest with yourself and your loved ones about who you are, how you feel, and what you need. Are there any crutches you’re holding on to that might harm you?