South Africa's cinematic history

By Susan King, Los Angeles Times staff


It's a country with a rich and complicated
cinematic history. Over the years, South Africa
has served as both an inspiration and backdrop
for many compelling dramas, thrillers
and yes, comedies too.

Here are a few from decades past and present:

'Cry, the Beloved Country' (1951 and 1995)

The first adaptation of Alan Paton's 1948 novel
was a British production that starred
two American actors -- Canada Lee and Sidney Poitier.

Lee plays a poor black minister from the country
who travels to the city to find his missing son.
He discovers much more, including poverty
and suffering caused by an institutional oppression
that would later become apartheid.

Poitier plays a young pastor who comes to Lee's aid.
Because it was shot in South Africa, producer-director
Zoltan Korda told the authorities that his performers
were not actors but rather indentured servants,
thus enabling them to freely associate with the crew.

South African Darrell Roodt helmed
the 1995 version starring James Earl Jones.

'The Gods Must Be Crazy' (1980, 1984 in the U.S.)

(20th Century Fox)

The Sho tribe in the Kalahari Desert come in
contact with modern civilization in the form
of a Coke bottle dropped from a plane.
The slapstick comedy was made by South African
director Jamie Uys and financed with
South African government funds, but was released
as a Botswanan film because of
the international embargo against South Africa.

'A Dry White Season' (1989)


Martinique-born director Euzhan Palcy helmed
this drama set in 1970s South Africa about
the protests of schoolchildren in Soweto
who wanted to be educated in English, not Afrikaan.

The story unfolds around a white South African
(Donald Sutherland) who finds his suburban
existence upended when his
black gardener's son disappears.

'Bopha!' (1993)

(Bob Greene)

Morgan Freeman, who plays Nelson Mandela
in the upcoming "Invictus," directed this drama set
in 1980 South Africa about a police sergeant
(Danny Glover) who has a good relationship
with his white captain until he is ordered
to raid a secret meeting of students.



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