If you’re anything like me, then you probably take a certain pride in eschewing the usual standard fare thrown out with frightening regularity by the Hollywood machine.
When my life-partner Samantha and I walk past our local Odeon – or ‘Oh-No!-Deon’ as Sam calls it, the darling – we just have to laugh. If we didn’t, we might cry. We might cry rainbow tears on behalf of the oppressed billions around the world whose adorable ways of life simply aren’t recognised or represented by Spielberg and Weinstein. People like Samantha and I know that it’s not only a pleasure lost upon the sheep, but also our social duty, to look beyond what we’re being spoon-fed and ensure that we only ever visit independent cinemas or buy DVDs from the ‘world cinema’ section in Zavvi.
This is why I’m absolutely delighted to have recently struck underground pan-global alternative arthouse gold. Kenya’s Jitu studio has begun producing the films I’ve been waiting for all my life – films so non-mainstream that they seem both to actively embody my own personal brand, and to act as a long-overdue shot across the bows of Fox et al. What’s wonderful about Jitu’s latest, Mob Doc, is that it actively avoids almost every cinematic convention that’s been imposed, in an act of cultural colonialism that seems a bit dodgy, what with slavery and all that, by the Hollywood juggernaut. It takes a lot of strength to break free of these century-old shackles, but Jitu has managed it. They say no to ‘sets’, a ‘script’, so called ‘professional’ ‘sound and lighting’, real ‘actors’, a ‘budget’, and a ‘plot’.
Mob Doc is a comedy, but one through which the ancient spear of pathos has been thrown. You feel it powerfully from the moment the titles (done in Comic Sans in flagrant denial of the phoney mainstream belief in ‘making films look as if they weren’t produced by a child’) and as the film comes to deal with alcoholism, marital strife, racial tension and erectile dysfunction, you find yourself welling up, such is the raw emotion of it all.
The film’s boldest and most powerful element is a sensitive exploration of transvestitism that, in a conservative country, has landed the studio in hot water. Yet, as Jitu point out, they have simply adopted a cultural convention with a proud history stretching back to the days of the ancient Greeks, and in so doing, united, after so many centuries of hatred, Europe and Africa, like so much concrete in the Mediterranean sea. It’s like slavery never happened.