Lesotho’s cultural imprint is extremely limited in the wider world. Some people might have heard of this small landlocked country, but they couldn’t tell you much about it from a cultural perspective. There is no mention of the Basotho and their blankets or the Sesotho language, nor the prominence of horses in this mountainous and rural country. Even in southern Africa people tend not to know much about Lesotho, only that it is cold and remote.
Perhaps a big reason for this ignorance comes from a dearth of cultural references about Lesotho. There are no TV shows or movies that showcase Lesotho, while the music and arts scenes are locally limited. With a large and culturally dynamic neighbour like South Africa influencing Basotho, it is not hard to see how Lesotho can be left in the shade.
A new award winning film, however, made by an American filmmaker, is offering people the chance to explore Lesotho through the movie screen. The Forgotten Kingdom is filmed in Sesotho, shot almost entirely in Lesotho and features many Basotho as actors. It is the first feature film ever to be shot in Lesotho and offers a visual labor of love about this phenomenal and overlooked country.
Last night we had the chance to see the movie at an outdoor screening in Morija. The film producers have been touring Lesotho putting on free community screenings in key locations, especially ones they filmed parts of the movie in. So, with our picnic blanket and bag of popcorn in hand, we joined approximately 300 other people to watch a movie projected onto an outdoor pop-up screen, surrounded by flashes of lightning as a storm threatened.
This was a fantastic way to experience the movie as most of the audience was Basotho and they vocalized their emotions at key moments of the film. Sitting outside in the countryside that was so viscerally displayed on screen only heightened our enjoyment of this cinematic novelty.
The story is universal, with a troubled youth trying to find his way in a life torn between the traditions of his parents and the reality of his life in South Africa. When his father dies, he embarks on a journey back to Lesotho to bury him. There he reconnects with the life he had left behind as a child and takes a journey to rediscover his roots.
It is a lovely little movie that holds extra meaning to those of us who have spent time in this magical country. It is soon to be released in the Maseru cinema as well as in South Africa. We hope that it will also have the chance to appear in the US or Europe, but hopefully at least a netflix or YouTube version will become available.
If you can find it near you, we highly recommend it, as it will show you a place that you cannot hope to understand any other way – unless you come to visit us!
Watch the trailer and get hooked:
Another little plug for this film is it was supported and partially funded by PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, so U.S. Embassy Maseru has been involved in many aspects of production and screening of this beautiful film.