First achievements of black filmmakers
Only in the 1960s, with difficulty and often resorting to exile, did black filmmakers begin making films; among these, L. N’Gakane, author of extraordinary visual intensity and stateless by necessity, testified, with a filmography consisting of a few short films, the difficulty of making films during apartheid. His two best-known works are Wukani awake (1964), the first work against apartheid by a black director and Jemina and Johnny (1965), without dialogue, set in a London neighborhood where, challenging racial prejudices, they meet and a white boy and a black girl make friends. His other films, exemplary documentaries of a tenacious militancy, are Struggle of a free Zimbabwe (1972), Once upon the time (1975) and Nelson Mandela: the struggle is my life (1985). Simon Sabela, close to the positions of the regime, known above all for his acting career, he was for a long time the only black man who could work as a director and managed to make, thanks to government funds, U Deliwe (1975), one of the first films spoken in Zulu language (the progenitor is Nogomopho, 1974, by Tonie van der Merwe). The censored How long (Must we suffer…?) By Gibsen Kente, on the Soweto uprising of that same year, dates back to 1976. Like N’Gakane, Nana Mahomo shared the experience of exile and together with other militants of the Pan African Congress (PAC) went underground in Soweto Phela ndada (1970, The end of dialogue) and subsequently Last grave at Dimbaza (1973), to document the condition of slavery of Africans in mines at the end of the 1960s and throughout the following decade, alongside works of brutal propaganda such as for example. Kaptein Caprivi (1972, Capitan Caprivi) by Albie Venter, works by white directors with a less dogmatic gaze were also made. Jans Rautenbach joined the cinema of social commitment with Die wilde seisoen (1967, The wild season, directed with Emil Nofal), Die kandidaat (1968) centered on the new Afrikaaner bourgeoisie threatened by English intrusion, and finally Katrina (1969, co-directed with E. Nofal) story of the amorous friendship between a white Protestant pastor and a black woman. In the same years the playwright Athol Fugard and the filmmaker Ross Devenish approached the racial question with a neorealist approach in Boesman and Lena (1973) and Marigolds in August (1979). Among the documentaries denouncing the
In My country, my hat (1983), rejected by white theaters, David Bensusan denounced the pass control system which, until 1986, further restricted the freedom of movement of black South Africans. For many filmmakers, filming meant carrying out an act of political denunciation, around which alternative associations and distributions arose. Among the counter-information works (sometimes in super 8 or in video) that have increasingly constituted a sort of filmography parallel to the official one, we must remember Fruits of defiance (1990), a collective medium-length film that documents, with shots taken without authorization, a protest campaign in Cape Town to secure the release of political leaders. Oliver Schmitz’s first fictional work Mapantsula (1988; Afrikander), the story of a black thief who joins the political struggle after the death of one of his comrades during a demonstration, was filmed in almost total hiding. O. Schmitz is one of the most interesting names among the directors of the new white and committed South African cinema, together with Chris Austin (author of numerous documentaries and the docufiction of reflections on exile House of hunger, 1983), Manie van Rensburg (arrived at feature film in 1991 with Taxi to Soweto, a love story told with humor between a white bourgeois and a black taxi driver), Michael Hammon (Wheels and deals, 1991, political thriller in which a trade unionist is involved in a traffic of stolen cars; Hillbrow kids, 1999, directed by Jacqueline Gorgen, a pathetic portrait of the street children of Johannesburg). In 2000 Schmitz confirmed himself as a solid author for narrative and visual structure with the gangster film Hijack stories. Genre cinema includes the filmographies of Darrell James Roodt (Place of weeping, 1986, thriller against racial segregation; the anti-militarist The stick, 1988, Stick, assault platoons, which was censored at home; Sarafina !, 1992, Sarafina! – The scent of freedom, set in Soweto in 1976; Cry, the beloved country, 1995, remake of the film by Z. Korda) and Elaine Proctor (Friends, 1993, comedy about friendship between a black woman, an Englishwoman and an Afrikaaner). anti-militarist The stick, 1988, Stick, assault platoons, which was censored at home; Sarafina !, 1992, Sarafina! – The scent of freedom, set in Soweto in 1976; Cry, the beloved country, 1995, remake of the film by Z. Korda) and Elaine Proctor (Friends, 1993, comedy about the friendship between a black woman, an English woman and an Afrikaaner). anti-militarist The stick, 1988, Stick, assault platoons, which was censored at home; Sarafina !, 1992, Sarafina! – The scent of freedom, set in Soweto in 1976; Cry, the beloved country, 1995, remake of the film by Z. Korda) and Elaine Proctor (Friends, 1993, comedy about the friendship between a black woman, an English woman and an Afrikaaner). For South Africa 2012, please check oxfordastronomy.com.
The birth of a black South African cinema
The nineties saw the birth, to all intents and purposes, of a black South African cinema in which political discourse stems from a profound aesthetic reflection. Ramadan Suleman’s Fools (1997) (the first fictional feature film made by an independent black South African filmmaker in his homeland) tells the conflict between a young intellectual and a middle-aged professor. Zola Maseko directed the fictional short film The foreigner (1997), in which he analyzed the phenomenon of South African xenophobia towards immigrants from other countries of the continent, and the documentary medium-length film The life and times of Sara Baartman, the hottentot Venus (1998), reconstruction of the life of a woman led as a slave in Europe at the beginning of the nineteenth century and exhibited as a freak phenomenon. Taboho Mahlatsi established himself as a filmmaker with a visionary gaze with his debut short film Portrait of a young man drowning (1999), set in an urban suburb inhabited by characters torn by infinite pain. Ntshaveni Wa Luruli chose social drama for Chikin biznisthe whole story (1998), in which a stockbroker invents a new profession, while for The wooden camera (2003) he looked at the fairy tale, with all the stereotypes of chance, in describing the friendship between a black boy who films everything with a video camera and a white girl of high social class. Other films should also be mentioned, such as Promised land (2002) by Jason Xenopoulos, a political thriller about an Afrikaaner community, violent and determined to defend its tradition by all means, and Norman Maake’s Soldiers of the rock (2003), a work with a strong visual impact on the life of a group of miners and their deep contact with the earth.Two original and unconventional voices are those of William Kentridge and Aryan Kaganof (also known as Ian Kerkhof), experimental and militant filmmakers and artists. Kentridge has brought to cinema (played by actors or animation) the density of all his visual experimentation (theater, installations, painting) and has created works in which things and characters are subject to constant mutations. This path is evident both in single works and in the animated series Soho Eckstein films (1989-1999), a black and white saga focused on two characters and song of pain to reflect on the history of South Africa during apartheid: eight episodes that ideally make up a single sequence shot and have as protagonists the entrepreneur Soho Eckstein and the artist Felix Teitlebaum. Kaganof’s was instead a work on both the body (in The Mozart bird, 1993, a couple relationship filmed with a cold style; Ten monologues from the lives of the serial killers, 1994, an investigation on serial killers with amateur and pornographic inserts; and Shabondama elegy, 1999, dizzying explosion of sex and violence in a couple’s relationship), and on memory (in Western 4.33, 2002, hypnotic avant-garde film made to recall the genocide committed by the Germans in Namibia at the beginning of the twentieth century).