Review: And Not A Word Was Spoken- dance film- taps intensely into  being unhinged and disconnected, even when we are physically together- premiering at NAF 2022

What: And Not A Word Was Spoken- dance film-2022 National Arts Festival [NAF] on NAF Online
When: June 23, 2022 00:00 to July 03, 2022 23:59
Tickets: R35
Direct booking link:  

Director: Jacques Batista
Dancers:  Leilah Kirsten and Richard-Dean Sumares 
Duration: 38 minutes
Ages: All ages    

Full production credits:

NAF 2022 programme: NAF is on June 23 to July 3, 2022  

#NAFOnline #NAF2022 #AndNotAWordWasSpoken  


At the moment we have no words – personally, politically and in every sense and the film, And not a word was spoken, taps intensely into this sense of being unhinged and disconnected, even when we are physically together. In a recent interview with TheCapeRobyn [link below], directorsacques Batista talks about the genesis of the film. It was sparked by people cohabiting in domestic spaces and the ensuing issues of communicating – finding words- losing words. If we turn the volume down and mute ourselves or become muted, then what? He speaks about the process of making the film and the performer/dancers using their mobile devices to record footage. This is a throwback to hard lockdown, when our conversations played out on our mobile phones. In a sense, with the return to ‘normality’, many people are battling to recalibrate and communicate.

The film embraces screendance, a medium which is hyper plugged in to the screen as a stage and space and not merely as platform to ‘film’ dance so And not a word was spoken is not a conventional dance film. The medium of screendance is integral to the way the narrative unfurls, in tandem with the dance that emerges in other peoples’ rooms. The narrative is non-verbal, yes, it is a dance film but this is an multi nuanced story.

I am about to plot spoil, so if you don’t want to know more, then stop reading now. It takes a while in And not a word was spoken, for dance to happen. Well, that is actually not correct. The protagonists dance around each other- not talking – sizing each other up. We see a woman returning home and her man on his on the deck. He is trumming his guitar and gardening.  She looks peeved. Or perhaps she is cool with his pursuits. She does the dishes and then he joins her at the sink; hands, dancing in the suds. Is this enough? Are they connected, beyond language? Do they not need words and conversation? I am not sure. If the volume is turned down on our devices, how do we communicate with each other, when no words are spoken? I know people who have stopped talking to each other in lockdown as there is so much noise from their devices but they seem to exist quite happily without the chit chat. As Elvis said- “a little less conversation”.

Batista has used French New Wave style in filming. In an interview with TheCapeRobyn, he notes: “Already before the pandemic people were dancing in videos on Tik Tok, Instagram and other New Media, but we now have a different relationship with the screen. Some of this is reflected in And Not A Word Was Spoken. Using the French New Wave style came about because I wanted to create a film that wasn’t ‘pretty’ in its execution – I wanted rough edges, subjects off balance and ‘accidents’ that imposed in the moment..” 

And Not A Word Was Spoken is thought provoking film – innovating visually with screendance, beautifully choreographed dance which reverberates with tension between the protagonists and a compelling non-verbal narrative. It’s very French – the tense intimacy of people who love and perhaps loathe each other and who are looking for words but perhaps they don’t require words and their bodies have become the primary mode of expression. This is a very interesting film- with ragged edges which disturb but are also seductive in the way that the film and dance has been spliced together. I would love to see And Not A Word Was Spoken, being developed into a feature film. Bravo to Batista and the team for a tense and intense, beautifully poignant film.

❇ Images supplied. Related coverage on TheCapeRobyn: