Ten years after the end of apartheid in South Africa, a group of new cinematic visionaries have emerged in the country. Not content to settle for the work of outsiders representing their struggle on film, South Africans have begun to find their own voice. This new voice comes largely through documentary works which reflect on the ever-growing crises of crime and AIDS, but also films which celebrate the country’s unique and influential music. This series is presented in conjunction with the American Repertory Theatre’s South African Festival which runs through January 2005.
This program is co-presented with the American Repertory Theatre. Special thanks to Paul Stopforth, Ceridwen Dovey, Lindiwe Dovey, California Newsreel, and the Ten Years of Freedom Festival.
Program notes adapted from the Ten Years of Freedom Festival.
January 14 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Lee Hirsch
US, 2002, color, 108 min.
English, Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans with English subtitles
The power of song to communicate, motivate, console, unite and, ultimately, beget change lies at the heart of Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, winner of the Audience Award and Freedom of Expression Award at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. Amandla! celebrates the freedom music that sustained and galvanized black South Africans through more than forty years of struggle against racist white rule. It is an expressive portrait of South African life, a chronicle of the country’s struggle, and most of all, a love song to its music, featuring inspiring performances by Vusi Mahlasela, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela, and others.
January 14 (Friday) 9 pm
January 16 (Sunday) 7 pm
Directed by Liza Key
South Africa, 2003, color, 90 min.
English and Afrikaans with English subtitles
In the tradition of Buena Vista Social Club, Karoo Kitaar Blues is a rousing documentary about a group of wildly talented but utterly isolated musicians who eventually come to tour South Africa to rapturous crowds. In the Karoo, a spare and desolate swath of South Africa, tobacco farms, cattle ranches, and bare plains dominate a landscape populated by white landowners and poor, Afrikaans-speaking, “colored” farm workers. In their isolation, these workers evolved a unique musical style played on homemade instruments. In this film, part music documentary and part road movie, musician David Kramer seeks out the Karoo’s hidden artists, offering a rare glimpse into a distant social and musical world.
January 15 (Saturday) 7 pm
Directed by Oliver Schmitz
South Africa/Germany/France/UK, 2001, color, 95 min.
With Tony Kgoroge, Raoulana Seiphemo, Percy Matsemela
English and Sotho with English subtitles
In this stylish drama that explores the boundaries between life and art, Sox Moraka is a young actor from a middle-class black family living with his white girlfriend in a slick Johannesburg apartment. He has a nice smile and appears in feel-good commercials on television, but he is bored. His shot at the big time comes with a chance to audition for the role of a gangster in a popular television series. Unable to relate to the character, Sox ventures back into Soweto to connect with Zama, a childhood friend turned leader of a carjack gang. As Sox is drawn into violence and machismo, Zama navigates his life with ever increasing artifice until one wonders who is the actor and who is the criminal.
January 15 (Saturday) 9 pm
January 17 (Monday) 9 pm
Directed by Clifford Bestall and Pearlie Joubert
South Africa, 2001, color, 55 min.
Directed by Clifford Bestall
South Africa, 2002, color, 55 min.
This brilliant second feature by Cristi Puiu was the revelation at Cannes, where it took top prize in the Un Certain Régard section. This sardonic, darkly humorous, compulsively vibrant feature seems so realistic and convincing, unfolding as though in real time, that it's hard to believe it was acted. As it follows an ailing retired engineer, too fond of booze, who gets carted from one overtaxed Bucharest hospital to another in search of proper medical care, a whole stressed society is laid bare: Each doctor, nurse, paramedic, and patient leaps into view with sharp individuality and articulate self-defensiveness. Compassion and indifference clash, often within the same person. The fluid, mobile camera recalls the great works of Fred Wiseman and John Cassavetes.
January 16 (Sunday) 9 pm
January 17 (Monday) 7 pm
Directed by Lindy Wilson
South Africa, 2001, color, 83 min.
On March 3, 1986, apartheid police murdered seven young black men they accused of being terrorists. Ten years later, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, charged with setting the record straight about South Africa’s past, re-opened the case. The Guguletu Seven tells the story of how TRC investigators foiled desperate, last-ditch attempts at a cover-up to reveal a shocking story of high-level complicity, silence, and brutality. Remarkably, the discoveries are hailed as part of the nation’s healing process and desire for reconciliation. This searing documentary is at once a nail-biting, real-life murder mystery and a searching exploration of what it means to face the past.
January 18 (Tuesday) 7 pm
January 19 (Wednesday) 7 pm
Directed by Elaine Epstein
South Africa, 2002, color, 86 min.
In this searing indictment of responses by the pharmaceutical companies and the South African government to the AIDS pandemic, producer/director Elaine Epstein, a native South African who has worked extensively in AIDS and public health, offers a unique insider's view of the complex forces driving the disease's spread — and the debate around it — in South Africa. State of Denial gives moving testimony to the harsh realities of the AIDS epidemic, global healthcare inequities, and the political and economic interests that are denying millions of people around the world access to life-saving therapies.
Directed by Teboho Edkins
South Africa, 2004, color, 48 min.
Thabo, Thabiso, and Moalusi are young, urban Basotho men on a mission. They travel with a mobile cinema unit through the mountains of Lesotho, screening their film to very remote communities. In a country where almost a third of the people are HIV-positive, they are the nucleus of a tiny group who are living openly with the virus. They are pioneers and publicly declare their HIV–positive status. They are also film stars and are attractive to women. The three young men open up in a way seldom seen on screen, and this film gets to the heart of their lives and dilemmas.