Drunk husbands and environmental issues: a brief note on the South African adaptation of Britten’s Noah opera

Last September, I noted that Mark Dornford-May’s short film Unogumbe, based on Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde, had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film has continued to play at festivals since then — appearing at the Berlinale in February, for example — but it has not, to my knowledge, played anywhere near me yet, nor am I aware of any plans to distribute the film, even online.

The Boston Globe now has an article on the film which, interestingly enough, is not tied to any screening of the film in that city but, rather, was prompted by a live performance of Britten’s opera by a local choir this weekend.

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The South African Noah musical now has a trailer!

Last month, I noted that Mark Dornford-May, the South Africa-based director of U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (2005) and Son of Man (2006), had combined his interest in things biblical and operatic by directing an adaptation of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde.

Since then, I have been reading and working on a review of Son of Man: An African Jesus, a collection of essays about Dornford-May’s second film, and one of the things I have learned from that book is how certain elements of that film are essentially borrowed from the Chester Mystery Plays — and that’s rather interesting, as the opera behind Dornford-May’s newest film is, itself, based on one of those plays.

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Noah and the Flood come to a South African township

Darren Aronofsky isn’t the only filmmaker tackling the story of Noah and the Flood right now. Mark Dornford-May, a British-born South African filmmaker who has already directed feature-length adaptations of opera (U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, 2005) and the Bible (Son of Man, 2006), recently finished making a short film about the Flood that is both biblical and operatic in origin.

The film in question is called Unogumbe, and it is based on Benjamin Britten’s opera Noye’s Fludde — which, itself, was based on a 15th-century mystery play that was, itself, based on the biblical story of Noah.

Screen Daily first mentioned the film three months ago, and reported that Pauline Malefane, who played Carmen and the Virgin Mary in the previous films, will play Mrs Noah in the new film. They also reported that this is the first film produced by the Isango Ensemble — a theatre company founded by Dornford-May and Malefane — that wasn’t developed as a stage production first.

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