The Forgotten Kingdom is a perfect example of what we all want from modern African film. It is an affront to what was possible for black Africans a generation or two ago. Not only is it well written, acted and shot, it is also a story about an African man, an African nation and without explicit reference to the frame of African, a telling of colonialist legacy too. That is not to say that the past is not clearly referenced. To the contrary, it is along with aspects of the dark current but it is clearly a proud, well thought out black film.

The subtle calm and mildly affecting soundtrack only add to the beauty of the writing, acting and cinematography. Every performance is well placed, especially that of the all-knowing ‘wise man’, who is actually played by a young boy. Lebohang Ntsane who steals every scene he is in but does so without the standard tropes of over comedic or tear-jerky precocious child acting. More than a love interest, Dineo (Nozepho Nkelemba) is not only central to Joseph’s journey but the audience’s too. There is no question that her solid, beautiful acting transform this story of one man’s journey.

Joseph/Atang (Zenzo Ngqobe) as a character grows on screen as he travels back to his home in Lesotho but the recurring theme of ‘home’ is as important as his journey to it. Is a home for Joseph/Atang a specific place or is it wherever he can build and recover relationships with people who are important to him?

The Forgotten Kingdom, a more than symbolic title, brings up ideas of colonial missions, the legacy of Christianity and the battles of identity in South Africa, Lesotho and modern Africa as a whole. In losing something, Joseph/Atang finds something else. On the surface it is a new relationship with someone he once knew but more than that, it is him finding his freer self outside of the modernity of Johannesburg.

The Forgotten Kingdom is a beautiful example of the oral and performative traditions of South Africa and Lesotho on screen. Those looking for all the strengths of great filmmaking, no matter their origin as well as a more thoughtful and insightful view on modern Africa through a fictional narrative will not be disappointed.

– Aduke King

A beautifully written about a beautifully imagined coming-of-age tale. Get your tickets now for THE FORGOTTEN KINGDOM at The Ritzy on the last full day of FILM AFRICA!