African Media Program
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Last Grave at Dimbaza (1974)

Director: Nana Mahomo. Production Co. Morena Films.
Format: 16mm, VHS/NTSC. 52 minutes. Black & white

Distributor Descriptions: In 1969, a small group of South African exiles and British film students formed Morena Films in London to produce films about the apartheid. In 1974 they produced one of the first, and certainly the most influential, films about apartheid. LAST GRAVE AT DIMBAZA—shot clandestinely in South Africa and smuggled out of the country—had an enormous impact on global opinion at a critical moment in the struggle against apartheid, revealing to audiences worldwide the shocking inequalities between whites and blacks in South Africa. It went on to win major awards at many international film festivals. With a newly restored digital master, is now available for the first time on DVD. This documentary exposé is now a rare, primary visual resource, a portrait of a time and place that was largely unrecorded by photographs or film. It combines scenes of everyday life in South Africa with statements from political leaders that characterize the government's blatantly racist policies. Filmed throughout South Africa, from Capetown to Johannesburg, as well as in the surrounding black townships and the desolate bantustans, LAST GRAVE AT DIMBAZA visually portrays the stark contrasts between living and working conditions for the majority populace of 18 million blacks and the 4 million whites who rule over them. In addition to revealing the migratory labor system, which separates black families for most of the year, and a repressive passbook policy to control black workers' movements, the film examines the gross inequities in such areas as housing, education, health care, industry, and agriculture. By combining its clandestinely-photographed scenes of everyday life with relevant statements from National Party leaders such as B.J. Vorster that characterize the government's unabashedly racist policies, LAST GRAVE AT DIMBAZA becomes a stunning indictment of the apartheid system, which had controlled South Africa since 1948. The film's concluding scenes, contrasting increasing labor unrest and strikes amongst black workers and the compulsory training in armaments use for all white South Africans, dramatically foreshadows the conflict that developed during the following two decades, and which culminated in the end of apartheid with the nation's first multiracial elections in 1994. ======================================================================================== The film investigates the devastating human costs of almost all aspects of the apartheid system by 1974. It ends in the resettlement camp of Dimbaza in the Eastern Cape, only one of many such 'camps', to which thousands of people were removed to off the farms, under the Migrants Labour laws etc., into a life of dire poverty and neglect. The film's indictment was so powerful, that the South African government produced a film specifically to counter its effect. Last Grave at Dimbaza was shown at festivals all over the world, and widely distributed on TV. (From Film Resource Unit)

Country: South Africa

Languages: Narration English.

Audience: Graduate, High School, Undergraduate

Genre: documentary, ethnography

Specific Subjects: apartheid/anti-apartheid, capitalism, ethnic conflict, human rights, politics/government

Synopsis: The film investigates the effects of apartheid on the day-to-day life of South African blacks.

Critique: Though there are other more contemporary films on South Africa, this film is still one of the best introductions to the country's racially-based social, political, and economic problems. Shot secretly inside South Africa under the direction of one of South Africa's first African filmmakers, it reviews the full impact of apartheid, especially the effects of the system of black family life. Utilizing dramatic camera movement, background music, and editing patterns, the film presents a cohesive concept, moving quickly from scene to scene in newsreel-like fashion. The cumulative effect is of the overpowering might of the regime. The film's major weakness that makes an introduction imperative is its failure to document any African liberation organizations at work against apartheid. The more recently released Generations of Resistance or Six Days in Soweto are complementary and provide an understanding of African response and resistance to the South African apartheid system. Some teachers also find its useful to simultaneously view one of the many South African Service films in order to highlight the contrasting points of new of the filmmakers. 

3- Scenes of life in-black townships and Bantustans; statistics on the dissolution of black families due to apartheid 2- Scenes of wealthy white areas of Johannesburg; statistics on apartheid. 2- Scenes of the Nationalist Party's military strength; statistics on the division of land between blacks and whites. 7 - Scenes of life in the Bantustans; history of policy of "separate development" and statistics on the poor quality of life in the Bantustans. 2 - Scenes of a white cattle auction near the Transkei; statistics on the basic economic gap between blacks and whites. 3 - Scenes of black workers cutting sugar cane; statistics on the wealth of white farmers who exploit black labor. 2- Scenes of wealthy South Africa; statistics on the degree of this wealth relative to the world in general. 2- The instability of life in the townships for its "temporary sojourners." 2- The takeover of colored areas of Cape Town for use by whites; squatter housing for the displaced coloreds on the Cape flats. 4- Life for a black worker in the cities; evidence of the "color bar;" statistics on wages, the contract system, the pass system, etc. 5 - Life of a domestic in Johannesburg. 3 - Comparison of educational support and opportunities for blacks and whites. 4- The role of foreign corporations in South Africa, their collusion with apartheid. 2 - Life in the townships. 6- Hope for peaceful change; whites preparing for a confrontation with an arsenal of weapons; black workers' strikes. 3 - Scenes of Dimbaza in the Transkei; the children's graveyard; statistics on childhood mortality. 

Suggested Uses: Courses in history, political science, and sociology; also for general audiences For most audiences, a short introduction to the history of apartheid and an update on the current liberation efforts are necessary.

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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
Holds a library copy of the video but is not a video distributor.

Icarus Films (Sale and Rent)
32 Court Street
21st Floor
Brooklyn, NY 11201 USA
Phone: (800) 876-1710
Fax: (718) 488-8642
Has changed its name from First Run/Icarus Films to Icarus Films

Additional phone number:
(718) 488-8900

See: MI-7

In Europe:
22 Passage des Petites Ecuries
75010 Paris, France

Replaces Impact Films.

Film Resource Unit
P.O Box
Johannesburg, 2000 SOUTH AFRICA
Phone: +27 11 403 8416/71
Fax: +27 11 403 8474
Prices in South African Rand

American Friends Service Committee (Rent)
Audio-Visual Resources for Social Change
2161 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140 USA
Phone: (617) 497-5273
Fax: (617) 354-2832
Videos are loaned free of charge but a donation of $10-$25 for public or classroom showings and $2 a day for home video use. Videos are loaned within the US only.

Record updated: 2009-10-07 15:17:41

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