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1st South African film selected in Berlin competition wins gold

Mark Dornford-May's feature debut "U-Carmen eKhayelitsha" has been awarded the Golden Bear for Best Film at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival.

The first South African film to be selected for the competition in 25 years, "U-Carmen" is a unique interpretation of Bizet's opera set in the township of Khayelitsha and performed in Xhosa (the "click" language). Director Dornford-May was joined on the red carpet by Khayelitsha-born Pauline Malefane who appears in the title role and co-wrote the screenplay.

"U-Carmen eKhayelitsha" was chosen out of 21 competition entries from around the world, by an international jury presided over by Hollywood director Roland Emmerich and including actresses Ingeborga Dapkunaite of Lithuania, Franke Potente of Germany, the Ukrainian writer Andrei Kurkov and Italian fashion designer Nino Cerutti.

"It is a great day for Khayelitsha," said director Dornford-May. "To say that we are ecstatic would be an understatement. The idea of setting and filming the world's most popular opera in Xhosa in a South African township seemed mad at the time - it still seems mad now - but it was an amazing experience for everyone involved and it is a delight beyond words to know that an international audience can appreciate what is for us such a very personal and local triumph."

"U-Carmen eKhayelitsha" marked the film debut not only of the director but also of each and every member of the lyric theatre company DDK. Founded in 2000, Dimpho Di Kopane (meaning "combined talents" in SeSotho) creates opportunities for South Africans to develop their musical performance talents and promotes South African lyric theatre both at home and abroad. The company is composed of 40 members chosen through auditions held in rural and urban South Africa by founding members, Britons Mark Dornford-May and music director, Charles Hazlewood.

A Dimpho Di Kopane production in association with Spier Films and Nandos, with backing from the Department of Trade and Industry and the SA National Film and Video Foundation, "U-Carmen eKhayelitsha" is produced by Dornford-May and Ross Garland.


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