That’s how I saw the scene when Mary is sitting in the ashes, and the sheep are walking around. That is from that idea of Ezekiel: that, in the ashes, the spirit walks in. In the darkest place, that spirit walks in—in the form of a sheep.
It’s one of my favorite images in the film: Mantoa in the ashes of her home, encircled by sheep. What are your memories of shooting it, particularly given the importance of sheep as a motif of life, death, and rebirth in your work?
That’s the essence of who I am. That’s the essence of what I believe. That’s the essence of the film … It was really funny because, in the beginning, we tried so many times to make all the sheep go around [Twala.] At some point, I realized, “Oh, no, we need only one of them to go around.” They are used to going only one place, in one direction. We took only one around, so we could see if the others would follow it. And they did. After many takes, we got this right once, and then everything went perfectly. Sheep, as you said, play a big role in my work. As in “Mother,” where love can be expressed as hate or fear, the sheep can come as beauty or as terror—and not just as terror, but as mirroring something that moves for the sake of motion but is devoid of life.
The villagers rely on the wool of merino sheep for their livelihood, and “Resurrection” presents at one point the ritual of a sheep-shearing contest, which turns unexpectedly grisly. What can you say about that scene?
It’s a severing. When I set to work, I always think of sewing and severing. I try to bring those motifs to life within the film: the scissor, the razor, the blade, the cutting, the sewing, the meeting, the mending. It’s an eternal phase: sewing and severing, constructing and deconstructing, destroying and building, sawing, and hammering. It is ongoing.
Your second fiction feature, “The Chattering of Teeth,” will be set in Lesotho in 1852, following a father and son “who take refuge in a fortress city on the top of a mountain, inhabited by a population of outcasts trying to rebuild their lives but still haunted by their experiences of warfare and siege.” Do you still plan to film in Lesotho in late 2023, as previously announced?
I have just finished the script. I still need to polish it. It’s been a long journey. And I’m so thankful that I have taken the time to really concentrate on finishing this work. The more I create, the better I am at getting close to my true headspace. I’m also working on an essay film, and so I’m hoping to do that and then, within the next year, begin shooting “The Chattering of Teeth,” depending on funding.