Mike Downey

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Breathe – Umphefumlo

Breathe – Umphefumlo

Since 1896, Giacomo Puccini’s La Boheme has become one of the most popular and frequently performed operas in the world. Puccini’s message is clear and unambiguous.

It is about the striking and brutal realities of the everyday life of the poor rebellious youth, and tells a tale of doomed love. This timeless opera resonates across cultures and generations. Based on La Boheme, Breathe - Umphefumlo moves the action from 19th century Paris to 21st century Khayelitsha, South Africa where struggling artists, writers and actors are surviving through wits on the margin of society. Khayelitsha, South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of TB infection. For this group of friends, many of their families and friends are living with the realities of TB on a daily basis. For them, La Boheme is not a glittering piece of musical history but a searing emotional cry for understanding and action.


  • Official Selection at Berlinale Film Festival, Berlin, Germany, 2015