|BIKO: BREAKING THE SILENCE |
1987 55 minutes. Produced by Tripod Productions, Mark Kaplan, Richard Wicksteed and Olley Maruma. Directed by Edwina Spicer. Distributed by Filmakers Library; California Newsreel.
TOPICS: Politics, Apartheid, South Africa, Resistance, Sociology, Human Rights, Film Making.
USES: U, G, V and A.
The organizations mentioned in the film should be explained prior to viewing.
Biko explains the rise and development of Black Consciousness (BC) in South Africa and Steve Biko's role in it. Biko was tortured to death by the Security Police in 1977. The film weaves into its narrative interviews with Biko's BC associates, and Donald Woods, whose books on Biko internationally popularized his humanist message. Further interviews with film director Richard Attenborough while in production in Zimbabwe of Cry Freedom during 1986 explain Attenborough's rationale in the making of the film, and what he and Woods' hoped to achieve by bringing the terrifying impact of South African police repression to the cinema screen for the first time. Attenborough explains that he needed a subject about apartheid that would not become immediately outdated. The documentary is illustrated with excerpts from Cry Freedom, often accompanied by voice over commentary of the actual participants in many of the events re-enacted. The producers of Biko, South Africans and Zimbabweans, use the fact of Cry Freedom's Zimbabwean location to discuss the development of film making in that country.
Biko fills in many of the gaps unarticulated in Cry Freedom. These relate to Biko himself, BC philosophy, the transference of philosophies from BC into the United Democratic Front, especially following the Soweto '76 uprising. This film could be shown after Cry Freedom to illustrate concepts, organization and strategies simplified by that film's narrative which foregrounds Woods' perspective of Biko. Interviews with Woods and Attenborough show how Cry Freedom negotiated the contradictions of big-budget film making through using the Woods character as the mediator between the black reality on screen and international white audiences in the cinema. This was a tactical move to secure finance and distribution to ensure that the film was made.
Tomaselli, K.G (1993). Disarticulating Black Consciousness: a way of reading films about apartheid, Communicatio, 19(2), 45-51.
Woods, D. 1987: Filming With Attenborough. Harmondsworth: Penguin
(Reviewed by Keyan G Tomaselli and MSU Evaluators, 1990)