Far away from the busy streets of Johannesburg, in a remote village of the Zululand where electricity and running water are considered luxury, Yesterday (Leleti Khumalo) and her daughter are living a simple life. Each day they wake up, go to the nearby well for water, clean up the house, and enjoy the warm sun of South Africa. Yesterday's husband has gone to the big city where most of the work these days is and the couple barely sees each other more than once every couple of months.
After a routine visit to the district doctor and a blood test revealing that she is HIV-positive Yesterday is told to contact her husband in Johannesburg as quickly as possible. Confused, helpless, and determined to fight for her life Yesterday and her husband will have to learn how to live with the biggest threat the African continent has ever faced- the AIDS pandemic.
Intertwining politics, religion, and social issues which the Western world will most probably have a difficult time grasping the 2004 South African Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film Yesterday directed by Darrell Roodt is a film of unbridled emotions. Revealing a modern-day South Africa where outside of the major metropolises Cape Town and Johannesburg life is still a daily struggle to endure unemployment, religious prejudice, and the stigma of a society seemingly unwilling to accept modern medicine Yesterday is a journey to a part of our world on the verge of being devastated by the AIDS pandemic.
Despite of the sobering message(s) which Yesterday offers Darrell Roodt has managed to create a film of unparalleled visual beauty. It almost feels as if the cinematography of Yesterday was meant to compliment a beautiful fantasy feature retelling the adventures of H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quotermain. Sumptuous, breathtaking, and full of stunning vistas Yesterday is indeed a film of subtle nuances where one is likely to be shocked by a world which Hollywood could recreate only with the assistance of its most skillful CGI designers.
Strange were the feelings this film spurred in me. I was stunned to witness a country of such extreme cultural and religious contrasts yet at the same time I was perplexed by the simplicity with which people faced adversity. While Yesterday is far from being a desperate plea for help it is not difficult to "read between the lines" and a see the tragedy which AIDS is causing in the region. In fact, with all due respect the main protagonists in this story are truly somewhat secondary, Yesterday, her husband, the village people…it could have been anyone, anywhere in South Africa, and the message of Darrell Roodt's film would have been just as powerful as it is.
Shot almost entirely in Zulu Darrell Roodt's Yesterday is the winner of the Eiuc Award-Venice Film Festival (2004), and was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Independent Spirit Awards (2005).
How Does the DVD Look?
I am a bit unsure about the original aspect ratio of this film. Presented in an aspect ratio which is not precisely 1.78:1 yet it is not exactly 1.85:1 (the difference is very, very small but I still think that it should be noted) and enhanced for widescreen TV's Yesterday looks gorgeous. Deep and well saturated colors, excellent degree of contrast, steady image frame, and a minimal degree of edge enhancement should impress the pickier amongst you. My only complain is directed towards the few (I noticed about three of them) dust specs which could have been cleaned up digitally. Nevertheless this is one great looking DVD and just like previous HBO releases the presentation is excellent.
How Does the DVD Sound?
I have never seen a film shot entirely in Zulu so this was a great opportunity for me (and I hope for others) to discover the beauty of this popular language. HBO have provided us with a splendid Zulu 5.1 and 2.0 tracks and interestingly enough a Spanish 2.0 dub which I am unsure how to grade. The Zulu 5.1 track is excellent with extensive use of the rears and as far as I am concerned the 5.1 track creates a great atmosphere through the unique soundtrack the film offers. In addition, HBO have provided optional English and French subtitles which you could choose through the main menu.
Unfortunately aside from a very revealing commentary with the director of Yesterday Darrell Roodt there is nothing else to be found on this disc (the mandatory introductory collage of HBO trailer bits is here as usual).
What a marvelous film!! I encourage everyone with even a tiny interest in foreign cinema to give this South African production a chance. For those of you interested in serious world cinema Yesterday belongs in your collections...plain and simple!!! With this said, I seriously contemplated placing this film in the DVDTALK Collectors Series but the lack of substantial extras prevented me from doing so. Had HBO given Yesterday a lavish second disc of extras (and I can hardly think of a more deserving feature from their catalog) I would have not hesitated for a second in giving Darrell Roodt's film the highest mark. A great, great film!! HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!