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  • on 15.04.2014
  • at 04:00 PM
  • by Kevin Hind

There is more to Lesotho than blankets, mountains and horse rides 0

The Forgotten Kingdom,” the new feature film by American director Andrew Mudge, depicts the story of a rebellious young man called Atang, toiling in inner city Johannesburg. When Atang’s father, living elsewhere in a Joburg township, passes away, he must voyage back to his homeland of Lesotho to honour his father’s wish to be buried in the “forgotten” country of his birth.

While at home Atang sparks an intimate connection with an old friend, Dineo. He then embarks on a challenging journey of self-discovery, guided by a mysterious young shepherd, as he readjusts to the now foreign landscape of the Mountain Kingdom and her people.

Known for having one of the highest prevalence of HIV in the world, the Kingdom of Lesotho has been host to many HIV-centered film projects shot among the nation’s scenic valleys and modest thatched houses. It is almost typical to associate Lesotho with HIV. “The Forgotten Kingdom” once again weaves the pandemic into its overall storyline, though it succeeds at being one of the most visually spectacular films ever shot in the country. By virtue of its particularly wide reach, having been screened across the Unites States, it has become one of the most powerful representations of our country. Still, as usually is the case when one represents another culture, the film is not immune to critique.

The film made its premiere in Lesotho on March 1st to a VIP audience, which included Lesotho’s monarchy (King Letsie III and Queen ‘Mamohato Seeiso) in its ranks. The film had been on peoples’ lips since it was shot in 2011. The hype had only intensified after its international debut in 2013 and it’s series of award nominations. I went to the Lesotho premiere fortified with awareness that “no one can tell your story better than you can yourself.”

Before the first frame, several things had been floating in my mind. Firstly the writer/director Andrew Mudge likely had somewhat of a romantic experience with Lesotho, one different from Basotho. Secondly, leading roles are occupied by South African actors while locally-based talent serves as support. Thirdly, the movie debuted in America (winning awards for the Best Narrative Feature and Best Cinematography at the Woodstock Film Festival) before it came to Lesotho where it was shot. I was a skeptic who wanted answers, so I went into the theatre beaming with curiosity about how my country would be depicted.

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