×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Makibefo

In the universe of Shakespearean adaptations, few are more distinctive than Alexander Abela's "Makibefo," an austere version of "Macbeth" located amid the coastal dunes of Madagascar's southern tip. After a theatrical run in France, pic is set to roll out in select territories, and deserves attention from art-friendly North American distribs.

With:
Makibefo - Martin Valy Makibefo - Noeliny Narrator - Gilbert Laumord Bakoua - Randina Arthur Danikany - Jean-Felix Kidoure - Boniface Makidofy - Jean-Noel Malikomy - Bien Rasoanan Tenaina Murderess - Nobel Mahatsinjo Witch Doctor - Victor

In the wide universe of Shakespearean adaptations, few are more distinctive — and only “Forbidden Planet” may be further afield from the original setting — than Alexander Abela’s “Makibefo,” an austere version of “Macbeth” located amid the coastal dunes of Madagascar’s southern tip. Pic’s novelty goes far beyond anthropological interest, cleverly pointing up the universality of the themes of regal authority and the temptations of power, which can occur as easily among a remotely situated society on a quiet patch of beach as in Scotland’s Highlands. After a year-long theatrical run in France, pic is set to roll out in select international territories, and — with English narration a plus — deserves strong attention from art-friendly North American distribs.

The British-born Abela and sound and tech assistant Jeppe Jungerson were sole crew in late 1999 for lensing, which involved close collaboration with Antandroy tribesman (speaking in native Malagasy tongue), few of whom had ever seen a movie. Comparable to the lauded “Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner,” also a tragic epic enacted (and also lensed) by indigenous people, “Makibefo” is a considerably greater and more satisfying artistic achievement.

Gilbert Laumord, speaking like a storyteller of old directly to the camera, intros pic’s concept of altering Shakespeare’s characters names to the Malagasy lingo. It’s a shrewd conceit; Laumord’s narrative serves to relieve the tribal thesps of a good deal of dramatic heavy lifting, and permits Abela to stage a nearly silent film, interspersed with minimal dialogue.

Decision to shoot in high-contrast black-and-white proves to be a brilliant move from the start, showing Makibefo (played by Martin) chasing down and capturing enemy Kidoure (Boniface) across astonishingly huge, white sand dunes. A witch doctor (Victor) suddenly appears before Makibefo, foretelling his ascendancy to the throne and the weaknesses of current king Danikany (Jean-Felix).

That these visions are confirmed sends a bit of a chill through Makibefo and his wife, Valy Makibefo (Noeliny), but it also sets them on a course to fulfill the visions, which plays in many ways even more convincingly in pic’s non-stratified social context than the play’s original setting.

Play’s build-up of tension, violence and lust for power climax with the intercutting of Makibefo’s arranged murder of one of Danikany’s generals, Bakoua (Randina Arthur) with the (real) sacrifice of a water buffalo –more chilling than in “Apocalypse Now.”

Staging cleverly utilizes available resources, so that when Makibefo begins to go mad and see visions of his victims, they appear in the flesh, but with ghostly white-painted faces. The play’s depiction of armed troops becomes here an armada of catamarans invading Makibefo’s strand of beach.

Cinematic influences recall the F.W. Murnau/Robert Flaherty collaboration, “Tabu” and Nelson Pereira dos Santos’ great black-and-white Cinema Novo work to several of Orson Welles’ projects, from “It’s All True” to his own “Macbeth.” Yet Abela’s pic emerges as an entirely fresh response to Shakespeare that should attract both fans of the Bard and B&W cinema.

Stripped down thesping and filming are exceptional. The Antandroy actors appear to have easily incorporated some of their own customs (plus many not their own) into the playing. Lensing is distinguished by dramatic depth-of-field shots and terrific, old-school day for night scenes. The screened print was marred by some subpar lab work; future prints are promised to be pristine.

Makibefo

U.K. -France-Madagascar

Production: An Epicentre Films release (in France) of a Blue Eye Films presentation. (International sales: Blue Eye Films, Paris.) Produced by Alexander Abela. Directed, written by Alexander Abela, based on "Macbeth" by William Shakespeare.

Crew: Camera (B&W, Metrocolor), Abela; editor, Douglas Bryson; music, Bien Rasoanan Tenaina, Donald; sound (Dolby), Jeppe Jungerson. Reviewed at Pan African Film Festival, L.A., Feb. 9, 2003. Running time: 75 MIN. ( Malagasy, English dialogue)

With: Makibefo - Martin Valy Makibefo - Noeliny Narrator - Gilbert Laumord Bakoua - Randina Arthur Danikany - Jean-Felix Kidoure - Boniface Makidofy - Jean-Noel Malikomy - Bien Rasoanan Tenaina Murderess - Nobel Mahatsinjo Witch Doctor - Victor

More Film

  • EMMA APPLETON as FEEF SYMONDS

    'Traitors' Producer 42 Hires Literary Manager Eugenie Furniss

    Eugenie Furniss is joining London- and Los Angeles-based management and production company 42 as literary manager, it was announced Wednesday. The company’s slate include movie “Ironbark,” a Cold War thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch, and TV series “Traitors,” a spy thriller coming to Netflix in the U.S. at the end of the month. Furniss joins 42 [...]

  • Brad Pitt Leonardo DiCaprio Once Upon

    Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' Trailer Drops

    The first trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is finally here. The highly anticipated film, starring Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, is set to be released on July 26. Tarantino, who wrote the script and will also direct and produce the movie, was inspired by his own upbringing in the midst [...]

  • One-Cut-Of-The-Dead-Review

    Japanese Sleeper Hit ‘One Cut of the Dead’ Heads for English Remake (EXCLUSIVE)

    “One Cut of the Dead,” a micro-budget horror film that last year defied the odds to become one of the biggest hits of the year in Japan, is headed for an English-language remake. Patrick Cunningham, a Japan-based American producer whose credits include “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and “Starlet,” is behind the venture. More Reviews SXSW [...]

  • Come as You Are review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Come as You Are'

    The rare remake that’s actually a slight improvement on its predecessor, Richard Wong’s “Come as You Are” translates Geoffrey Enthoven’s 2011 Belgian “Hasta la Vista” to middle America. Other changes are less substantial, but this seriocomedy has a less formulaic feel than the original while remaining a crowd-pleasing buddy pic-caper with a soft-pedaled minority empowerment [...]

  • Strange Negotiations review

    SXSW Film Review: 'Strange Negotiations'

    In a era when some mainstream entertainers have transitioned to targeting faith-based audiences, David Bazan is moving in the other direction. The gifted songwriter’s ersatz band Pedro the Lion was perhaps the most successful Christian indie rock act of its time, and the first to significantly cross over to secular fans. Then he ditched that persona (and [...]

  • Bluebird review

    SXSW Film Review: ‘Bluebird’

    As affectionate as a love letter but as substantial as an infomercial, Brian Loschiavo’s “Bluebird” may be of most interest to casual and/or newly converted country music fans who have occasionally wondered about the songwriters behind the songs. There’s a better than even-money chance that anyone who’s a loyal and longtime aficionado of the musical [...]

  • ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad

    ‘Wonder Park’ Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending for the Fourth Week in a Row

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV advertising attention analytics company iSpot.tv, Paramount Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the fourth week in row with “Wonder Park.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.18 million through Sunday for 1,718 national [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content