One-thousand-watt personalities combined with beautiful lensing make “Meanwhile in Mamelodi” a star thesis project from tyro helmer Benjamin Kahlmeyer. Largely shot in 2010 during the World Cup in South Africa, the docu features hard-working folks in a shantytown east of Pretoria for whom the hullabaloo of the games provides welcome but temporary uplift. Without pathos or whitewashing, Kahlmeyer showcases the Mtsweni family and their future goals, impressively adding layers to an irresistible portrait. Already mid-career on the fest circuit, “Mamelodi” will prove popular among Euro satcasters.The Mtswenis are swept up in the excitement of the World Cup like the rest of the country, though South Africa’s economic improvements haven’t touched their impoverished township. Dad Steven is focused on providing opportunities to better his children’s lives, working constantly in his small grocery store. Daughter Lerato, aka “Moskito,” is a charmer with the usual quota of teen concerns and dreams. Only gradually is the family’s full situation made clear. D.p. Stefan Neuberger knows just when to move the camera and why, and delivers stunning compositions.
A Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, Jolle-Film, SWR production. (International sales: Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg, Ludwigsburg.) Produced by Boris Frank. Executive producer, Stephan Grobe. Directed, written by Benjamin Kahlmeyer.
Camera (color, HD), Stefan Neuberger; editor, Benjamin Entrup; music, John Guertler, Jan Miserre; sound (Dolbuy Stereo), Jonathan Schorr, Michael Kaczmarek. Reviewed at Abu Dhabi Film Festival (competing), Oct. 18, 2012. (Also in Hot Docs, San Francisco film festivals.) Running time: 74 MIN.
Steven Mtsweni, Lerato "Moskito" Mtsweni, Thabang Mtsweni, Nhlanhla Ndima. (English, Sepedi, Zulu dialogue)