African Media Program
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Witness to Apartheid (1986)

Director: Sharon Sopher. Production Co. Developing News Inc.
Format: 16mm, VHS/NTSC. 58 minutes. Black & white

Distributor Descriptions: Archbishop Desmond Tutu tells us why it is the duty of every Christian to speak out against all forms of injustice, and especially against racial prejudice in South Africa. He talks about the pragmatic limitations of peaceful change occurring in South Africa and this threads through the story about torture, resistance and white witnesses to the effects of apartheid on dissidents. It's an extremely powerful film and viewers might feel a sense of hopelessness when watching it, but it's testament to the liberation movement to overcome the desperation of this time. (From Film Resource Unit) http://www.fru.co.za/synop.php?id=596 ============================================================================================================== Filmed clandestinely during the 1985 state of emergency, the film presents a picture of apartheid through the testimonies of various South Africans. The "witnesses" include Bishop Desmond Tutu, Mkuseli Jack on the consumer boycott, and Curtis Nondo; white South Africans who talk about their perceptions of black people and life in the townships; victims of state violence and the medical personnel who treat them reveal the effects of torture and police assaults. Dr Roberro, who appears in the film, was assassinated after it was released. Sopher discusses her reaction to this, and public reaction to the film in Getting the real story. (From UCT African Studies Library) http://www.lib.uct.ac.za/asl/info/films2008.pdf ============================================================================================================ Witness to Apartheid is an Emmy award-winning documentary that bears witness to the youngest victims of apartheid during the state of emergency in South Africa in the mid-1980’s. Focusing on the children who were tortured and detained during this era, the documentary focuses on their stories, fears and hopes for a free democratic South Africa. By exposing the institutionalized and criminal injustices under apartheid, Witness to Apartheid became a part of history in educating western audiences to the critical importance of people outside of South Africa to participate in the boycott against the repressive Botha regime. 1987 Academy Award Nomination; 1987 Emmy for Best Director and CINE Golden Eagle.

Country: South Africa

Languages: Narration English.

Audience: Adult, Graduate, Undergraduate

Genre: documentary

Specific Subjects: apartheid/anti-apartheid, children/youth, corruption, education, government, human rights, international politics, political leaders, political movements, politics/government

Synopsis: Witness to Apartheid bears witness to the youngest victims of apartheid during the state of emergency in South Africa in the mid- 1980s. Focusing on the children who were tortured and detained during this era, the documentary tells their stories, fears and hopes for a free democratic South Africa.

Critique: Sharon Sopher and her video team taped extensive scenes of the people’s uprisings of 1985 and the police response. The video probably is the best record of police and regime violence in the mid-1980s during the government’s State of Emergency. In this period when the apartheid government was closing down access of foreign media to African townships and demonstrations in South Africa, Sopher found “witnesses” to describe the meaning of apartheid and its repression. Three African and white doctors describe the torture and assassination work of the government’s security forces and police, showing wounds of the bodies of Africans who had been imprisoned. A white corporate officer describes how he was moved to transport released prisoners to physicians who would give medical treatment. UDF official Curtis Nkondo describes the people’s fight for justice. Parents of a teenager killed by the police describe their anguish. Cheeky Watson, a coach of an African rugby team in Pt. Elizabeth, was ostracized for his pro-African position; his house was fire-bombed and destroyed. And Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu, who with his family is featured in the video, describes how justice is not possible under the laws and security forces of the state. In contrast, several whites on the street describe how they never have been in an African township, in one case that “people who live there are quite happy,” and that the trouble-making and chaos is by the communists so that a “wipe out” is needed for the blacks or else “we” will be wiped out. Although the video has several historical cutbacks to the 1960 Sharpeville massacre and other demonstrations, the focus is on documenting the human rights violations and violence of the state in 1985. A postscript to the video reports that Dr. Fabian Ribiero and his wife, who criticized the police violence had been assassinated by the security police. A long list of victims are listed, including Hector Peterson (Soweto riots) and Steve Biko (police detention). The video does not provide historical context on the racial history of South Africa; the emergence of the the ANC, PAC, and BCM; the international corporate presence in the economy; and the mobilization of peaceful and armed resistance from many sources, including the ANC, PAC, churches, and a broad spectrum of NGOs. It is unique in providing a picture of apartheid’s violence at its repressive worst.

Title of Manual: Witness To Apartheid: A Teaching Guide by William Bigelow

Reviews: Click Here

Distributor Info:
University of Cape Town African Studies Library
University of Cape Town
Private Bag
Rondebosch, Wes 7701 South Africa
Phone: +27 (021) 650-3107
Fax: +27 (021) 689-7568
Email: asl@uctlib.uct.ac.za
Website(s): http://www.lib.uct.ac.za/asl/
Notes:
Holds a library copy of the video but is not a video distributor.

Film Resource Unit
P.O Box
11065
Johannesburg, 2000 SOUTH AFRICA
Phone: +27 11 403 8416/71
Fax: +27 11 403 8474
Email: wiseman@fru.co.za
Website(s): http://www.fru.co.za/
Notes:
Prices in South African Rand

Record updated: 2009-05-20 11:29:55


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