Seasons of a Life
English Title: Seasons of a Life
Country of Origin: Malawi
Studio: First Dawn Arts
Director: Charles Shemu Joyah
Producer(s): Charles Shemu Joyah
Screenplay: Charles Shemu Joyah
Cinematographer: Peter Mazunda
Art Director: Michael Phoya
Editor: Abraham Mithi
Runtime: 103 minutes
Volume: African / Nigerian
Kondani (Bennie Msuku) and Thoko (Neria Chikhosi) live in comfort and appear to be a blessed couple. Thoko, the legitimate wife, however, cannot conceive and laments over this to Kondani who arrives home at midnight from a pub. He does not look nor behave drunk but has an agenda. He convinces Thoko to become a mother by adopting a child. They proceed to do so, underscoring the theme of motherhood. The working couple will require a nanny and a session of interviews sees 16-year old Sungisa joining the household as a nanny.
Three years later, Kondani and Sungisa indulge in sexual escapades resulting in her pregnancy. He asks her to have an abortion but she refuses and moves out to live with her aunt. He follows her and tells her that he can support her as long as she does not disclose that he is the father. She agrees and in turn gets financial support from Kondani. When Sungisa gets a scholarship to study at university, Kondani conceives a plan to get his son into his home. He convinces Thoko that they should adopt another child and asks Sungisa to leave her son at an orphanage, where he and Thoko then will adopt the child. Thoko has no idea that they have adopted her husband’s son. However, six years later, things come to a head when Sungisa comes back to claim her child. Helped by her sharp-talking feminist friend and lawyer, Tabitha (Tapiwa Gwaza), she sues for custody of the child. The question is: will Sungisa return her biological son to Kondani and Thoko?
The author, producer and director, Charles Shemu Joya is ironically a consultant in Land matters in Malawi’s commercial capital, Blantyre. His five time award winner debut is the culmination of an accomplished poet and story writer’s journey to satisfy a thirst for the Arts.
Seasons of a Life is an epic story of hope, motherhood, love, deception and reconciliation. In Malawi as in most of Africa, impotence/infertility is a huge embarrassment and is associated with evil. Breaking such news to a spouse therefore requires nerve; hence Kondani is out drinking to acquire the courage he needs to swallow the family pride as he suggests adoption.
Enhanced by Overtone Chimombo’s original 15 thematic tracks, the narrative feature draws emotion and emphasizes the plot, telling the story through a series of flash-backs. The music departs from the conventional language of the script, leaving the melody and rhythm to complement the scenes. The music provides a rather general lacing to the acts without the sound-bites that signal emotional action. For instance, when Kondani makes his first advances at Sungisa; he spills tomato sauce on his night gown and asks Sungisa to wipe it off. In the process he smears some of it onto Sungisa and wipes off the sauce from her breast.
Thoko leaves town to attend a workshop. Kondani takes advantage of, and sleeps with the nanny. She threatens to report but she does not do so. The two continue to play hide and seek on Thoko. When Sungisa gets pregnant, Kondani tries to convince her to abort to protect his marriage and reputation.
During a family outing, no sooner has Sungisa swallowed her ice-cream cone than her suspicious nausea starts again. She packs up and bids farewell to little Yamikani without noticing the expected quizzy, curious, child’s innocent interrogation.
She says no to abortion even when Kondani dangles a whiff of fat cash. Horrified by such suggestions, Sungisa literally escapes from the antenatal theatre, into a corridor where the lit ‘exit’ wall sign lights up a smile on this desperate soul. Sungisa, typical of the meaning of her name keep or protect runs to free her unborn baby. Motherhood is once more exalted and the accompanying music enhances the film’s mood.
She arrives at her auntie’s high density township home without the expected display of concern for illegitimate conception. This is mitigated by Kondani’s arrival to announce his change of heart. He will financially support Sungisa. She manages to pay for her education as she studies hard.
There she meets Tabitha who later becomes her workmate at a time she is seriously contemplating custody of her child. Finally she begets a son and Kondani scrupulously arranges to legally adopt him. Drama ensues during her visit to the Kaliras when Kondani refuses to release the child and Sungisa reveals to Thoko her husband’s infidelity. Thoko’s life is in turmoil. She leaves her matrimonial home to regain sanity.
Despite its serious topic, the film is entertaining and packed with suspense. Comic scenes culminate in Kondani and Sungisa’s romantic hide and seek on Thoko. Thus, as his wife returns to their bedroom twice to collect forgotten items, Kondani successfully conceals Sungisa under the blanket in the couple’s bed, pretending to read a book. The husband finds the scene ‘very exciting’.
Tabitha’s courtroom cross-examination of Kondani introduces another series of humorous emotional drama. It is not easy to take the apology of motherhood seriously in this comedy, looking at Sungisa’s series of dilemmas leading to the sudden return of her son to Kondani and Thoko.
Author of this review: Peter Mitunda