Fezeka's Voice (PG)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner12/11/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 80 mins

Warm-hearted, uplifting documentary that won't fail to raise a tear or two, though it could have benefited from spending more time with some of the students.

What's it all about?
Directed by Holly Lubbock, Fezeka's Voice follows the award-winning Fezeka High School Choir in the deprived township of Gugulethu, near Cape Town. Under the tutelage of their altruistic, hard-working choirmaster Phumi Tsewu, the choir prepare for a performance at the Salisbury arts festival in England, which will be the first time any of them have left the borders of South Africa.

Though the majority of the film focuses on Phumi (and specifically on his last-ditch attempts to secure passports and visas for two of his students), we also meet the three most talented members of the choir: Busi (16), Nokwanda (17), and Zukisa (17). Later, when the choir finally arrive in England, the film briefly spends time with the three teenagers as they settle in with their host families in Salisbury.

The Good
Phumi Tsewu is a remarkable character – don't be surprised if someone makes an Inspirational Teacher Movie about him in the near future. The obvious love he has for his students (many of whom have lost their parents to AIDS and drugs) is genuinely heart-warming and he clearly inspires them to believe in both themselves and their futures.

The choir is phenomenally talented too – they routinely sing in Latin, Italian and German and they learn an English and Latin mass for their Salisbury performance in what seems like a short space of time. Similarly, the scenes of the students experiencing culture clashes with their host families (an idea recently explored by an excellent Channel 4 documentary series about Amish teenagers in England) are filled with delightful moments, such as two boys being introduced to the dubious pleasures of eating raw rhubarb.

The Bad
The film's main problem is that it spends too much time on Phumi's efforts to secure the passports and visas and not enough time with the students themselves; similarly, one student who seems important in the first half of the film is largely ignored later on, which seems rather manipulative in retrospect.

Worth seeing?
Essentially a real-life Inspirational Teacher Movie, Fezeka's Voice is an undeniably uplifting documentary, though it's a shame the filmmakers didn't spend a bit more time with the students themselves. Worth seeing.

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Fezeka's Voice (PG)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 07:01

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