Many of the great universal truths revolve around family or grieving. Often it is a combination of the two. It doesn’t matter what kind of parent you have, your relationship with them doesn’t end with death. They stay with us via the ideal vision of them formulated by our memories once they have passed. This inherent desire to keep their legacy alive can be a great source of motivation in even the most unlikely individual. It is this sense of maintaining what those before us built that serves as the entry point into Sara Blecher’s Ayanda and the Mechanics (or just Ayanda depending on the country)
Ayanda (Fulu Moguvhani) is a young woman who is mostly making it on her own in South Africa by repurposing old junk into furniture. Her slightly younger brother Lenaka (Jafta Mamabolo) has just obtained a license for his restaurant, so he’s on his way to stability, while her mother oversees both the laundry business and garage that her deceased father left behind. Although he passed away several years ago, Ayanda misses him terribly and is upset to hear that her mother and uncle plan to sell the garage, which several mechanics currently maintain. Despite not being a mechanic herself, Ayanda begs her family for 3 months to make something of the floundering business.
This set up may sound similar to many of those modern fairy tales, with a little gender-bending and a “make something of yourself to honor your deceased parent” theme, but it’s much more than that.
Living in South Africa, there are certain things that one begins to notice. Take for example, the notion that the road worthiness of a car can be purchased for the right price. Or the fact that theft is a fairly common practice. Ayanda has to accept some of these, and fight against others, despite her best intentions. This is most evident when she and the mechanics, Zama (Kenneth Nkosi) & David (O.C. Ukeje), who she had a crush on, try to take an old run-down car and bring it back to its 1960s glory. Their goal is to get the car ready in time for a local auction that takes place in 15 days. However, despite their best efforts, many aspects of real life intercede and threaten the project’s completion.
I found Ayanda and the Mechanics to be thoroughly delightful. Utilizing a faux-documentary aesthetic, allows Blecher to evoke a film within a film feel at times. Since Ayanda’s friend is the one who is making the documentary, we get moments were characters talk directly to the camera, and times when we observe people being filmed talking to each other. Blecher further plays with the medium of film by including brief interludes of animation and music, as well as still photographs to end scenes.
Overall, these elements help to create a hip, and eclectic feeling throughout. While not all of the stylish touches are necessary or evenly done, their inclusion helps to frame the overall story quite well. Offering a charming glimpse into another culture, and a different perspective on the world, Ayanda and the Mechanics is an enjoyable film not to be missed.
Saturday, February 13, 7:00 PM, Carlton Cinema
Tickets can be purchased at the Toronto Black Film Festival website.