TIFF Review: Mlungu Wam (Good Madam)

Tsidi and her daughter

While slavery was officially abolished in the territory which is now South Africa in 1834, by dint of being part of the British Empire, that didn’t suddenly mean that everyone became equal. Slaves essentially now became indentured workers, with few greater freedoms or rights than bondage. Even before the Apartheid regime came into power, Black Africans were treated as second-class citizens by the White minority. This is the backdrop to Mlungu Wam (Good Madam).

After the death of her grandmother who raised her, Tsidi (Chumisa Cosa) has no option but to move in with her estranged mother (Nosipho Mtebe), along with a young daughter. Mavis lives in a large house in the wealthy suburbs of Cape Town where she’s the domestic servant to Diane (Jennifer Boraine), her rich white ‘madam’. Tsidi feels uncomfortable in a home she vaguely remembers from childhood but something ominous begins to develop.

Mlungu Wam (Good Madam) delves into generational and historical trauma to create a cutting social satire. Jenna Cato Bass’ horror takes aims at a number of racial issues which still haunt the ‘rainbow nation’, such as land theft and servitude. It uses its environment cleverly to create tension and an oppressive atmosphere lingers throughout, getting heavier as realisation begins to dawn. Mlungu Wam (Good Madam) is a bold and angry slab of allegorical cinema.

Mlungu Wam (Good Madam) screens at Toronto International Film Festival.

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