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‘On Becoming a Guinea Fowl’ Review: Trauma Takes on Grieving in Rungano Nyoni’s Darkly Transfixing Second Feature

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variety.com

Guy Lodge Film Critic It is polite, we are told, not to speak ill of the dead, though it’s just as often prudent not to speak ill of the living.

For victims with grievances against those older and more powerful than them, it’s hard to know when to speak up at all. But a quivering collective fury scalds through the silence in Rungano Nyoni‘s tremendous new film “On Becoming a Guinea Fowl” — as a group of young women, nursing the scars of sexual abuse, chafe against the quiet complicity of family elders when their shared perpetrator drops suddenly and none-too-sadly dead.

Blending molasses-dark comedy with searing poetic realism to capture contemporary Zambian society at a generational impasse between staunch tradition and social progress, this is palpably new, future-minded filmmaking, at once intrepidly daring and rigorously poised.

Unspooling in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard sidebar — though more worthy of a spot in the main Competition, the section Nyoni served as a juror last year — “On Becoming a Guinea Fowl” arrives in Cannes with an enviable pedigree, backed by A24, BBC Film and high-flying Irish outfit Element Pictures (“Poor Things,” “Room”).

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