You will be redirected back to your article in seconds


(English-language soundtrack)

Neria ... Jesesi Mungoshi Phineas ... Dominic Kanaveti Patrick ... Emmanual Mbrimi Jethro ... Oliver Mtukudzi Ambuya ... Violet Ndlovu Mavis ... Tsitsi Nyamukapa Shingi ... Manyika Kangai Connie ... Kubi Indi Mr. Machacha ... Claude Maredza Mr. Chigwanzi ... Anthony Chinyanga

(English-language soundtrack)

NEW YORK — An old-fashioned crowd-pleaser, the Zimbabwe feature “Neria” is a strong film about an indomitable woman. Already a big hit on its home turf, pic looms as an unusual attraction for African-American audiences tired of Hollywood exploitation, and has recently been released in Washington, D.C.

Debuting director Godwin Mawuru harks back to a form resembling 19th-century melodrama, complete with lip-smacking villain who all but twirls his moustache. However, the tsuris piled on the long-suffering heroine leads to a satisfying climax right out of a “Billy Jack” movie.

Jesesi Mungoshi is Neria, a very happily married woman who sews clothing (she’s seen selling to white American tourists in a friendly scene) and lives in the city with her husband, Patrick (Emmanual Mbrimi), and their two kids.

His family, under matriarch Violet Ndlovu, still lives in their small village and follows ancient traditions. The clash between traditional and modern ways is the cause of Neria’s problems. When her husband is killed riding on his bike in a car accident, his relatives use tradition to exploit the tragedy and shunt the widow aside.

The eldest surviving brother no longer lives nearby, so another brother, Phineas (Dominic Kanaveti as the rottenest of screen villains), takes it upon himself to “protect” Patrick’s family. The audience already knows he’s selfish and boastful, but when he steals cash and the family bank book out of his late brother’s closet, one can expect the worst.

Neria’s travails mount up alarmingly. Phineas takes the family car, has her furniture shipped to his village and even takes her children to live with him.

Fortunately, a modern neighbor and co-worker, Connie (Kubi Indi), hips Neria to a lawyer she knows, with Mr. Machacha (Claude Maredza) giving the heroine solid advice on how to regain custody of her kids and husband’s property by legal means.

Sharp writing, credited to editor and co-producer Louise Riber, spells out all the issues even-handedly in two courtroom scenes. Thanks to having a shrewd lawyer of his own (Anthony Chinyanga), Phineas mounts a convincing case on why, according to custom, he and not Neria should be in charge of the family estate. After some suspense, a judge sets things right.

Heartwarming coda has Neria assert her new-found feminism and defy the culture by refusing to marry one of her brothers-in-law after a year of mourning has passed. Her reconciliation with mother-in-law Ambuya is a touching finale. Wearing the weight of the world on her face, actress Jesesi Mungoshi is a find as the Earth Mother Neria.

Of course Kanaveti overplays his rotten role, even laughing in cruel glee when the other characters are out of earshot, but that’s part of the fun. Supporting cast is solid, particularly Ndlovu as the cranky but good-hearted mother-in-law.

Film is enlivened by the musical score by Oliver Mtukudzi, who also plays Neria’s brother Jethro, a popular singer.

Popular on Variety


(Zimbabwe -- Drama -- Color)

Production: A KJM3 Entertainment Group release of a Media for Development Trust production. Produced by Louise Riber, John Riber. Directed by Godwin Mawuru. Screenplay, Louise Riber, from Tsitsi Dangarembga's story.

Crew: Camera (Central Film color), John Riber; editor, Louise Riber; music, Oliver Mtukudzi; art direction, David Guwaza; sound, Esko Metsola; assistant director, Isaac Mabhikwa. Reviewed at Walter Reade theater (in "Modern Days, Ancient Nights" series), N.Y., April 16, 1993. Running time: 103 min.

With: Neria ... Jesesi Mungoshi Phineas ... Dominic Kanaveti Patrick ... Emmanual Mbrimi Jethro ... Oliver Mtukudzi Ambuya ... Violet Ndlovu Mavis ... Tsitsi Nyamukapa Shingi ... Manyika Kangai Connie ... Kubi Indi Mr. Machacha ... Claude Maredza Mr. Chigwanzi ... Anthony Chinyanga

More Film

  • In ‘Motherless Brooklyn,’ Edward Norton Takes

    In ‘Motherless Brooklyn,’ Edward Norton Takes on Timeless Power Struggles

    In Edward Norton’s “Motherless Brooklyn,” the ‘50s-set New York noir detective story he produced, directed, wrote and stars in, politics are never far from the surface. But they’re not the obvious parallels to any racist autocrats from New York of modern times, but instead focus on more timeless politics – the way disabled people and [...]

  • 'Joker' Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Wins at

    'Joker' Cinematographer Lawrence Sher Wins at EnergaCamerimage Film Festival

    “Joker” cinematographer Lawrence Sher’s bid, along with director Todd Phillips, to try something “perhaps even a bit artful” won big Saturday in Torun, Poland as he took the top prize at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival. The Golden Frog for cinematography, along with the audience prize, went to his work filming Joaquin Phoenix in the [...]

  • Roberto Schaefer

    Netflix Image Enhancement Rules Take Cinematographers by Surprise

    A Netflix requirement that cinematographers capture films in HDR, or high dynamic range, has taken many by surprise, filmmakers say, but those at the 27th EnergaCamerimage festival in Poland seem increasingly accepting of the change. DP Roberto Schaefer, whose “Red Sea Diving Resort” screened at the cinematography fest in the historic city of Torun, said [...]

  • Lech Majewski and Josh Hartnett

    Lech Majewski on ‘Valley of the Gods,’ Navajo Mythology, Josh Hartnett, Keir Dullea

    TORUN, Poland – In his latest work, “The Valley of the Gods,” director Lech Majewski explores the ancient mythology of a downtrodden people and the absurd wealth of the world’s richest man in a surreal vision of modern America. The film screened at the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival as part of special showcase honoring Majewski, [...]

  • The Red Sea Diving Resort

    Cinematographer Roberto Schaefer on Gideon Raff's Thriller ‘The Red Sea Diving Resort’

    TORUN, Poland – While Gideon Raff’s Netflix thriller “The Red Sea Diving Resort” shot largely in South Africa and Namibia, the project was a welcomed opportunity for cinematographer Roberto Schaefer due to his own memorable travels through Ethiopia. The film, which screened in the EnergaCamerimage Intl. Film Festival’s Contemporary World Cinema section, is loosely based [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content