A film about language, literature and humanity. Iconic Shakespeare monologues performed in 10 South African languages – revealing the enduring power and relevance of the insights into humanity of one of the giants of world literature. A high-water mark in the history of Shakespeare in South Africa, and a unique contribution to the global body of filmed performances of his work in translation.
Iconic Shakespeare soliloquies and other monologues come alive in powerful performances in the languages of one of the world’s most multilingual countries. Brilliant performances in 10 South African languages, subtitled in English, are combined with observations by the translators and actors on the minds and thinking of these characters – revealing that Shakespeare’s acutely observed insights into humanity remain as relevant to us today, as pertinent to our lives and our world, as they were four hundred years ago.
Speak Me A Speech is not only a film in 11 languages – it is also a film about language. It is through language, still humanity’s defining invention and our preeminent tool for navigating the complexities of life, that the Shakespearean characters that are the film’s protagonists attempt to make sense of their interior and exterior worlds: from adolescent infatuation and love triangles to the travails of married life, the inhumanity of xenophobia, political strains and social strife, prejudice and ambition, conscience and madness, transience, death, and much else besides. In language and an acting style that are consistently conversational, colloquial and natural, the performers in the film engage with subject matter that is pressing, real and now.
The film is, therefore, also about the power of great literature: its enduring ability to enrich our lives and deepen our understanding, to guide our thinking and our actions, to instil an empathetic perspective on the inner lives of others – and to remind us that in our deepest fears, hopes and desires we are not alone.
Speak Me A Speech is, ultimately, about our humanity. It is a feature-length film that contains the world, encompassing the fundamentals of the human experience. The film rests on four pillars: Shakespeare’s texts, extraordinary performances, animated and insightful discussions, and cinematic images of the contemporary world, the struggling and dysfunctional modern society in which the actors are speaking these ancient thoughts, and in which this film is made.
The request to ‘speak me a speech’ – lifted from Hamlet’s words to the lead actor in the group of players arriving at court – translates here as: give me the language to help me make sense of my world, and my life in it. This is the timeless appeal to which the film is a modern-day, 21st-century response.
Project undertaken in partnership with the Tsikinya-Chaka Centre, School of Literature, Language and Media, Wits University, Johannesburg. Producers: Chris Thurman, Professor of English, Wits University; Director: Tsikinya-Chaka Centre; President: Shakespeare Society of Southern Africa; Victor van Aswegen, CEO: CineSouth Studios.
Film produced with web platform as a parallel resource: speak-me-a-speech.com will contain clips of all filmed monologues, performed in South African languages with user-selectable options of subscripts in either Shakespeare’s English, contemporary English, or the spoken language, with texts.
- Poetic documentary
- 105 minutes
- South Africa
- English, isiZulu, isiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, Xitsonga, siSwati, Tshivenda, isiNdebele
- Ultra HD 4K 3840 x 2160
- 16:9 aspect ratio
- Director: Victor van Aswegen
- In production