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)


One Man Shakespeare said...

Hi there, I've been looking for a DVD of Makibefo for a while now. The website for Scoville Film seems to have died. Do you have any idea of where else to purchase it? Or have you copied any other clips from your DVD copy?



kj said...

I'm afraid I don't know of another source for the film--other than libraries. You can see if your library can get a copy by inter-library loan. Here's the WorldCat record for it:

I'll keep an eye out--it would be a shame if it's no longer available at all!


One Man Shakespeare said...

Yeah, it's very strange but it does seem to have disappeared. I've even left a message on Alexander Abela's Facebook page, but there's been no activity there since 2010. Like I said, the company website of Scoville Film is dead now, & it's not for sale on any website. I'm too far away from any library that might have it. Apart from the trailer, yours is the only website with any video clip. Did you do that clip yourself? Could you do more? ;-)

I'm looking to start filming a version of Hamlet I have (maybe a Macbeth too) in a rather unorthodox way. Some of the ideas I had are quite similar to what this Makibefo seems to have achieved so it would be fascinating to watch it.

kj said...

Thanks, One Man Shakespeare. Would you send me an e-mail (you can find it by looking at my Blogger profile)? Let's see if we can figure out something.


One Man Shakespeare said...

I sent an email to you yesterday. If you haven't seen it yet, check your Junk Folder!

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

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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