My Black Little Heart a Dark Offering Indeed

Set and shot in Durban, Claire Angelique’s debut feature film ‘My Black Little Heart’ explores streets and avenues the Tshwane Tourism Board leaves off its attractions list and its municipality outright denies exist. This gut wrenching “semi-biographical” piece sheds light on Durban’s dark and septic underbelly, a world plagued by self mutilators, addicts, prostitutes, street delinquents, hustlers, gangsters and ex-cons.

Flung back and forth between the beachfront based porn industry and theMy Black Little Heart inner city drug racket My Black Little Heart’s protagonist, Chloe (played by Angelique) is subjected to countless debasing sexual acts while battling addiction to crack and heroin. One can’t help but feel a strong sense of claustrophobia no matter how big the theatre they’re in may be. Although set in Durban Angilique rarely gives us moments ease, or sight of sky or sea for that matter. Instead her locations are littered with rotting mattresses, peeling walls in grotty little holes crammed with drug paraphernalia and strange sex toys. Anthony Dod Mantle’s (Slumdog Millionaire) cinematography backed by an amazingly poignant soundtrack by Chris Letcher gives My Black Little Heart a gratuitous flare and aesthetic the likes of which have never been seen on South African screens.

After 80 minutes of circling the drain audiences might expect, better yet, hope and pray for ‘happy ending’ where Chloe licks her habit and gets a job in reception or data entry, but I’m afraid there isn’t one. Although the last scene is set in rehab, there is no ‘back from the brink’ recovery. Instead there’s an uncompromising aesthetic and message to the movie – there’s no easy way out and addiction finally gets repetitive, boring, mundane, crummy and squalid, you soil your soul.

At a previous screening Angelique said “I wanted to create a work that delved deeply into the psychology and dark side of our nature, something that would be transcendental and complex. [Something] that hopefully wouldn’t undermine our audience’s intellect – as Hollywood blockbusters do. They feed the world with junk food and sooner or later it’s gonna to be bad for your health, mentally by watching this plethora of saturated fat. [When it comes to films] I don’t just want to go grab a pizza, I want the food to be the work, I want to feel full and be able to digest what I have seen and heard.”

When the end credits began running and the lights came on the screening audience I was part of seemed baffled, some shocked and squeamishly nauseated. I particularly felt restless and worn-out and quite distured.

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