The smiling face of a bright-eyed Afro-hipster marks the start of this South-African story, as she explains to her audience how she likes to reinvent objects to bring them back to life. This woman is the eponymous Ayanda (Fulu Mugovhani), a 21-year-old artist-cum-mechanic living in vibrant Johannesburg. The film is an (at times literal) snapshot of her life: her loving family, loyal mechanics and questionable friends. Having inherited her father’s struggling garage, Ayanda decides to refurbish and resell old vintage cars to make ends meet. It is an uphill battle that turns into her very own Kilimanjaro, with mistakes and misfortunes making the summit seem further and further away.
It is hard not to like a film with such a likeable lead, especially when played with such honest enjoyment by Mugovhani. Though seemingly simple, Ayanda’s story is far from flighty, as the tragedies permeating the film are neither forced nor incongruous. The same cannot be said for a brief romantic element which distracts from the plot: Ayanda and her mechanic David spontaneously recite a poem together in a saccharine scene, not in keeping with the rest of the film.
This uncomplicated story introduces an environment which will be little-known to many London Film Festival audience members. Johannesburg is colourful and lively, and it is so refreshing to watch a film set in Africa which not only eschews hackneyed guns and violence but is also so relatable. At its core, it is about someone struggling desperately to hold on to what is most important to them, a sensation with which everybody can sympathise.
With a strong female lead whose femininity neither defines nor hinders her, Ayanda is perfect for a time in which the depiction and presence of women in film is drawing more and more scrutiny. And it’s entertaining to boot.
Ayanda does not have a UK release date yet.
Watch the trailer for Ayanda here: