The film Yesterday follows the life of Yesterday as she struggles to come to terms with HIV, poverty, and the limited access to health services, water, and other resources.
The film emphasizes the importance of the role of women in the village of Rooihoek. Yesterday, along with the other women in the village is responsible for maintaining the household. Fulfilling the domestic role of taking care of her family, Yesterday devotes her time to looking after her Daughter and later her husband.
The women from the village don’t enjoy the luxury of going into the city to work. Instead they are left alone to look after their kids, cook, and clean. In a village of simplicity, Yesterday is still faced with the burdens of life. Rather than drowning in her misery, as head of the household, she must keep her diagnosis of HIV a secret. Not only does she fear that it will affect the life of her daughter, but she is also afraid of what the other women would say.
Fulfilling the stereotype that women gossip, the film repeatedly shows the women of the village spreading rumors. Gathering at the water well, they become influenced by the stories of one another.
Despite her commonalities with the other woman of the village, Yesterday’s actions and character shows her to be different.
From the beginning of the film, Yesterday is portrayed as a kind hearted woman that overall avoids talking about others. While the women gossiped, Yesterday didn’t really contribute. In one instance, when asked for her opinion on the marriage of one of the men in the village, she expressed to the women that love conquers all. She wanted to relay the message that the man marriage was not any of their business.
Yesterday through her actions, shows to be different from the rest of the women in the village. She was the only one that was accepting to the new school teacher. She explained to her that it took the rest of the women around a year to accept her but welcomed her with open arms. While the friendship between Yesterday and the school teacher grows, we see that the women of the village aren’t inclusive.
The women also believed in and followed the sorceress of the village while Yesterday avoided seeing her until she was desperate. Even after seeing her, Yesterday couldn’t come to terms of believing the woman.
The women of the village, once accepting to Yesterday, isolate her once the story that her husband has aids spreads. Because the women weren’t educated on the issue, they couldn’t come to understand how HIV is actually contracted. They feared Yesterday’s husband and demanded that he leave the village. It was also not until Yesterday’s situation became the talk of town that the women switched their focus from isolating the school teacher to isolating Yesterday. This shows just how little goes on in the village. With lack of education, and an abundance of time, the women seek comfort in talking about one another so that they are set apart.
Yesterday on the other hand despite her lack of proper education, wants something better for her daughter. She wants her to start school, so that she isn’t limited to the lifestyle of the village women.