Mark Dornford-May begins Breathe
by Naman Ramachandran
- La bohème adaptation reset in South Africa
Director Mark Dornford-May has commenced principal photography in Stellenbosch, South Africa on Breathe – Umphefumlo, a film adaptation of Giacomo Puccini’s opera La bohème. Dornford-May is no stranger to opera adaptations set in South Africa, having previously directed U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, a version of Georges Bizet’s Carmen, for which he won the Golden Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2005.
Adapted for the screen by Pauline Malefane (Son of Man) and Dornford-May, under the musical direction of Malefane and Mandisi Dyantis, and reset from Paris to contemporary South Africa, the film follows two star-crossed lovers, played by Busisiwe Ngejane and Mhlekazi Mosiea, both of whom appeared in Dornford-May’s short Noye’s Fludde-Unogumber, who are blighted by the world they live in and a tragic illness.
Dornford-May produces for South Africa’s Isango Company alongside Vlokkie Gordon for Advantage Entertainment, another South African entity. Project partners include the UK’s Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME) and Germany’s Propeller Film, with funding from ARTE and a grant expected from South Africa’s National Film and Video Foundation. Other partners include the Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation, supported by the University of Stellenbosch. The film has been pre-bought in South Africa by Kyknet/Mnet.
Dornford-May said, “La bohème is a glittering piece of musical history, but it also contains a searing emotional cry for understanding and action about the brutal realities of the everyday life of the poor and their struggle for shelter, food and medicine. This is what we want to bring to the screen in Breathe – Umphefumlo.”