The Double Futures of Athlone
This cultural history of Athlone, one of Apartheid’s ‘dumping grounds’ for the victims of forced removals, is something of a delight, providing an intimate snapshot of a bygone era that continues to live in the hearts and imaginations of many of the town’s residents. At the film’s centre is the Kismet theatre, which once acted as both the local bioscope and a performance venue for the rich musical talent of the time. Making engaging use of contemporary interviews and historical anecdotes, the film manages to sidestep sentimentality and nostalgia in favour of emotional realism. It also explores the ways in which film was used as an instrument of control by the Apartheid government, while providing a window into a time when cinema was far more widely accessible than it is today, a time before ticket prices skyrocketed and South Africa’s cinemas nearly all moved into malls and shopping centres. A delicate account of, in the film’s own words, “what’s left of the memory of the future?”.
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