The 19th New York African Film Festival: ‘Playing Warriors’

It’s not hard to see why Rumbi Katedza’s first feature has been described as a Zimbabwean ‘Sex and the City’. Four high-flying twenty-something women spend a good chunk of the movie hanging out in trendy Harare bars talking sex, dating, and marriage. There’s kissing, laughing, gossiping and some great outfits. Luckily, unlike the HBO series, there’s no annoying voiceover offering throwaway insights every five scenes. Katedza’s heroine Nyarai (Kudzai Sevenzo) is no Carrie Bradshaw. She’s cleverer, sharper, and when it comes to the crunch she is strong enough not to need the affirmation of men to feel good about herself. “Men use tradition when it suits them,” she tells her marriage-obsessed mother.

‘Playing Warriors’ is about young urbanites grappling with a traditional way of life that they can neither understand nor escape, a culture they belong to yet feel more and more distant from. Nyarai has hilarious, Flintstones-esque, daydreams of pre-colonial village life, and protests, “All they want to hear is that we’re barefoot, pregnant and married!”

Eight years in the making, Katedza (who is also behind the site ZimbabweFilm.com) has written a warm and witty film. There are tears as well as giggles, but you’re never too far away from a snogging couple falling off a bed or a jaw-dropping demonstration of male vanity to lighten things up. If there’s a sequel or a series to follow this then the folks at Shuga had better watch out: they’ve got competition, and it’s funny.

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‘Playing Warriors’ plays on Sunday, April 15, at 4pm at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center.

* Africa is a Country will review films from the 19th New York African Film Festival (April 11-17) over the next few days.  Also come to the two panels on “Cinema and Propaganda” which we are co-presenting with the Festival on Saturday, April 14, at the Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

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