White Gold

By Luke Bradford | Drama
A woman with albinism has her arm hacked off by a witch doctor. Now she wants revenge.

Mansa, a woman living with albinism in a village, set in an unnamed country in Africa. She lost one of her hands at an earlier age to the predations of a witch doctor named Natron, who mutilated her for his potions.

Mansa has had to live with the aftereffects of the violence, neglecting her work as a teacher and her role in the community. She is consumed with the idea of getting back at the man who treated her so inhumanely. She enlists her father to pose as a potential client to Natron, luring the witch doctor out of his home, where she can exact her revenge.

Written and directed by Luke Bradford, this Oscar-longlisted short thriller offers a propulsive, dynamic take on the plights of individuals with albinism in many African countries, who are believed by witch doctors to have magical properties and who hunt people with albinism down, mutilating them. It generates compelling suspense in following the plight of Mansa, who seeks revenge on the witch doctor and gets inside the headspace of someone traumatized by violence, who can’t seem to shake its aftereffect.

The subject matter will be difficult and shocking to many, and through its energetic pace and vivid, dazzling visuals, the film offers a visceral and powerful way to enter into the issue and tap into the profound injustice of it all. We also get glimpses of the albinism community, and the way they must band together to feel accepted and safe — and are set apart from mainstream life.

The narrative covers a lot of ground, needing to quickly establish the cultural context, relationships and characters. It crams a feature’s worth of events into the short format, juggling many story elements, though it takes more time in a slightly slower, more internal middle section exploring Mansa’s trauma and the way that resentment has twisted her emotions.

Actor Refilwe Modiselle’s performance captures how the inhumanity she faced has scarred her, twisting her emotions into a bitter resentment and rage at what happened to her. But actor Aubrey Mmakola’s performance as the witch doctor Natron captures the true horror of the plight of Mansa and others with albinism. Natron looks at Mansa in their re-encounter and sees nothing but a commodity, and the matter-of-factness of his dehumanization of her is chilling, pushing Mansa to the brink in an explosive climax.

It’s tempting to think of the idea of mutilating people with albinism as savage, superstitious and barbaric, and not go deeper into why such practices persist in the cultures that hold these beliefs. But “White Gold” has a slight twist at its conclusion, one that offers some subtle commentary on why these beliefs persist. In some ways, the ending is even more disturbing than it appears at first because it demonstrates how deeply embedded such ideas are into the social fabric, and how poverty and a lack of options contribute to their endurance, despite education, morality or notions of human decency. The injustice at the heart of “White Gold” is clear, but the solution will be much more complicated to put in place.

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