Friday, February 6, 2009

O Jardim do Outro Homem

I just got this movie on Netflix and it was really good. The film quality is poor, it looks kind of like a home movie. But the plot is interesting and the acting is good too. The story follows Sofia, a student in Maputo who dreams(literally) of being a doctor. Her family and boyfriend are not very supportive of this dream. The family has a saying that educating a girl is like watering another man's garden. I guess this means that, well, since she's going to grow up and be someone else's wife, what kind of investment is it for us?

The storyline touches on many classic Mozambican/Maputo issues; the father is in South Africa working in the mines, teachers mysteriously die from something everyone really knows is AIDS, the grandmother speaks Shangaan and dresses more traditionally while the younger women wear Western clothes and speak Portuguese even to each other. School corruption was a major theme too; one of Sofia's teachers tries to blackmail her into sleeping with him when he catches her cheating on a test.

Sofia's character was well developed. She isn't perfect, but she tries to be good. In the film we see her cheat, steal a shirt, but she is also smart and dreams of delivering babies and helping her community. I like the fact that we see she has a sexual relationship with her boyfriend. Often, stories about female students sleeping with teachers are dependent on the virgin/whore dichotomy. The crime is either wrong because she's a virigin or less wrong because, a least he didn't take her virginity and she was a slut anyway. But in this story we see that Sofia has a sexual life that she's in control of, and that is healthy. What is wrong is that she isn't in control of the potential sexual relationship with the teacher. He's trying to take away her dignity, not her virginity. I just felt that was a different take on an old story.

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