Thursday, April 19, 2012

Makibefo: Shakespeare in Madagascar

Makibefo. Dir. Alexander Abela. Perf. Martin Zia, Neoliny Dety, and Gilbert Laumord. 1999. DVD. Philipp Hinz | Scoville Film, 2008.
In the "Shakespeare and Hollyworld" group at the recent Shakespeare Association of American Convention, I learned of the existence of a derivative version of Macbeth filmed in Madagascar with actors from the area. I immediately asked our library to purchase a copy (it's on the expensive side). Today I got an e-mail which transported me into something like a spy novel:
Makibefo is here.
I dashed out immediately and grabbed it. I've only watched the first three minutes, but I'm entranced. Here's the beautiful, magisterial opening:

Transcript (drawn from the subtitles, including their punctuation):

In a land washed by the ocean a tribe of people lived in sight of sands and crashing waves. Their king was a noble king, who gave his people peace and harmony. And amongst his subjects many were good and true. But none more so than Makibefo. Indeed, it was the king who entrusted Makibefo to capture a fugitive and to bring him back to the village.

On the way, Makibefo, in the company of a trusted friend, met a witch doctor, who told him that though the king was merciful he was also weak. He prophesied that a time would come, as surely as the tides, when peace and harmony would no longer sweeten the lives of the people. The witch doctor looked deep into the eyes of Makibefo and saw that the gods had singled him out as a future leader. He inscribed solemnly the ancient symbol of the favoured one on his head band.

The king indeed was merciful and pardoned the fugitive. But his son had no mercy and killed him instantly. The witch doctor proved to be the teller of truths and Makibefo began to believe that he was a man destined for greatness.

His wife too had understood the ancient symbol. Her husband had been blessed by the gods. She exalts him to overthrow the king. Makibefo recognized the truth in his wife's words. But he knew too that once he had committed the ultimate treachery there would be no turning back. The blood that they would wash from their hands would not so easily be washed from their souls.

This is a tale of damnation.
I find it hard to count the number of levels on which the opening to this film is extraordinary. The ending line seems to allude to the opening of Lawrence Olivier's Hamlet. This actor's delivery is stunning. Changing the Three Weird Sisters—marginalized figures in the text—to a single Witch Doctor—possibly a more central, more respected figure—is intriguing. And the connection of the idea of fate to the tides in this ocean-washed setting is magnificent.

The film looks fascinating. Now I just need to find the time to give it the attention it deserves, which is no easy task at this point in the semester.

Note: In 2004, the director made a second film—Souli, a derivative of Othello, also filmed in Madagascar—though it doesn't seem to have been commercially released yet.

Links: The Film at IMDB.

Click to purchase the film (or to have your library purchase the film)

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Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
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