NNarrative Feature Competition
LuckyOriginal Title: Lucky
Director: Avie Luthra
South Africa | Hindi, English, Zulu
is the affecting story of a South African orphan struggling to find a future in a harsh urban landscape. Based on director Avie Luthra's BAFTA-nominated 2005 short, it's both a spirited coming-of-age drama and a frank portrait of contemporary South Africa.
Ten-year-old Lucky finds out the mother who abandoned him has died of AIDS in Durban. With nothing but a cassette recording of her voice, he flees his impoverished Zulu village for the city, hoping opportunity will knock. But his guardian uncle turns out to be a scoundrel, and Lucky's prospects in the concrete jungle rapidly dwindle. Only an untrusting old Indian widow offers reluctant help.
Luthra (who is Indian himself) doesn't spare anyone in depicting the tension and mutual suspicion left by the catastrophe of apartheid. "Granny" Padma is almost pathologically racist –she refuses even to touch Lucky at first –while her black neighbors taunt and victimize her. Even more significant than race is the grim game of economic survival among the urban poor. To see a child in need either ignored or exploited is both heartbreaking and all too plausible. Luthra's film offers no easy solutions. These depressing realities are mitigated by gentle Dickensian melodrama: Lucky learns toughness and self-sufficiency while Padma discovers compassion. In the restrained scenes at the film's heart, the boy and the old lady converse in two tongues, getting to know each other despite the barriers. It's a touching symbol of hope for a new South Africa; ultimately Lucky is as inspiring as it is genuine.