TOPICS: Apartheid, Sociology, Politics, Anthropology, Human Rights
USES: LE, UE, M, H.
This video would be excellent supplementary viewing to any of the PBS Frontline Specials, or more structured documentaries on specific aspects of apartheid.
Election in Krugersdorp
Directed by Julie Henderson
Henderson is introduced by an NP politician, Leon Wessels, at a public meeting. Pik Botha addresses the group. He cracks some jokes. The hall is filled with rowdy NP and Conservative Party members shouting at each other. Wessels tells, to great applause, that he is going to lead the NP in granting the demands of blacks, Indians and coloreds, that he challenges the Afrikaner Resistance Movement (AWB) to put up `whites only signs'. The AWB members chant slogans; followed by heated face-to-face confrontations. The remaining NP members sing the national anthem.
Henderson interviews Clive Derby-Lewis of the Conservative Party who explains his policy, in a seemingly most reasonable and erudite manner. (Derby-Lewis is presently in jail, convicted of the assassination of Chris Hani of the ANC and Communist Party leader.)
Outcome of the by-election - the CP wins. (Not clear rom the video).
The next segment is on the AWB (Roodepoort). This starts with a folk song eulogizing apartheid, the Afrikaner peoples state, etc. A song recalls Afrikaner traumas under British domination, and their spiritual connection with the land: Eugene Terreblanche is introduced and orates in his dramatically impelling way, invoking rich metaphors and tales of how young Boers died for their fatherland during the Anglo-Boer War (1989-1902). Though they lost the war, "Surrender" is not known to Afrikaners.
Terreblanche is really a griot, a bard, in a different time, who weaves stories from history, relates them to the deepest anxieties of the Afrikaner right wing in the present, holding his audiences spellbound with his deep baritone voice. This is compelling presentation which mobilizes the deepest myths of Afrikanerdom for contemporary political mobilization. He language rarely overtly racist; but his assumptions about God and his plan for Afrikaners carries the sub-text of racial and cultural difference, biological incompatibility, and holy war against the evil of communism, represented by blacks.
The Little Mechanic
Directed by Tyrone Mthoba
Scenes of children playing in Soweto street. Focus on a wire vehicle toy made from coathangers and driven by means of a long rod by which the toy is steered and driven (pushed). A child, Zwinine, working as a mechanic on a car assisting an adult. The mechanic explains just how skilled the young mechanic is. The child identifies the parts of the car. Shots of school assembly. Singing Hymn. Zwinine at school in class. Playing with a bike after school.
Directed by Carly Dibakoane
This is a film of the very large queues that form on black pension payout days. Old women in blankets waiting, sitting on ground. The pensioners explain how much they get, their hardships, and the inconvenience having to collect the money in person. The men state that the method of payment is "whites mocking us", The imputation is that even when the apartheid state is seemingly generous, like in pension payouts, the method it uses remains a form of social control.
Directed by Suzy Bernstein
Doctor-patient interactions. Difficulties of communication via language. Problems of a violence-ridden community in a state of political siege. How to deal with the brutalization of youngsters who have never known stable social conditions. Some humorous moments occur as a patient is so happy at his treatment he wants to send a picture of the white doctor to Mrs Thatcher overseas. But the community retains a cohesion in the face of all these traumas, says a doctor.
Directed by William Bennie / Tyrone Mthoba
A film supposedly about Alf Khumalo, a black photographer. A play by children about freeing the children (from detention). Songs - calling for the return if Oliver Tambo, ANC President in exile. A short vignette of a POTWA meeting (Postal Workers of SA) freedom rally. Vignette of a United Democratic Front rally on a university campus. Unfortunately, we don't get to see much of Khumalo.
Directed by Julie Henderson
Back to Krugersdorp. Krugersdorp celebrates its centenary: drum majorettes, soldiers, floats, voortrekkers (Afrikaner scouts), black policeman band, garden party, period dress. An old man tells how his parents came to Krugersdorp. His mother came from the UK to teach Boer children in Burgher Camps. Shots of Pardekraal Cemetery, where so many Boer women and children are buried. They died in British concentration camps during the Anglo Boer War. Descriptions by old people of British brutalities against the Boers. An old man says it is the European responsibility to educate blacks, that's why they don't understand what's going on, which makes them ripe for terrorism. Henderson does not argue with him, but gives him the space and time to state his case. This vignette gives some idea of ordinary people who are depicted as the ogres in anti-apartheid films.
Directed by Donne Rundle
Western Township where `coloreds' lived was destroyed. Mabeta is one of the last streets in this township. Dwellers talk about their experiences in the township, problems of moving (i.e. for the first time they will have to pay for services like electricity and water). Soccer match, singing a rock song, they reminisce about the life in the street, the professional successes of its inhabitants. This video becomes a public memory of the people who last lived on this street. One woman talks about a history of multiple removals and movings, hounded by the Government Gazette, which declared previous black-owned areas white. One man says that what is important for viewers is that the history of Western Native is being destroyed, that the relatively stable town as it was will result in social breakdown, crime etc, as people lose their roots, and the community is broken up. Shots of houses to which the people were supposed to be moved to. People refused to live in these houses and damaged them, defied the police. Shots of people packing trucks, taking rooves, windows and doors with them. Bulldozer sweeping last vestiges away. The previous female householders watch and then recover the bricks, clean them for the cement, to sell them to others who want to build houses. It's all in a day's experience - they don't seem bitter or angry; they just pick up their lives and proceed as best they can.
This is the only vignette which even attempts some kind of analysis and explanation. This is provided through the commentator who comes back to the community and comments on it, and the area to which they are to be moved.
A final vignette occurs on a place of shelter for street children in Hillbrow, Johannesburg. They get educated here, sleep here, and one endearing young fellow mimics the news.
This series of vignettes made in 1987 emerged from the Centre for Direct Cinema, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. The Centre was established by the French Foreign Ministry, as one of a number in Africa and South America. The preferred style, direct cinema, was developed by French anthropologist film maker, Jean Rouch. Direct cinema is similar to cin'ema v'erit'e in that it documents only; this camera style does not analyze, critique or comment - it allows the situations and people to speak for themselves. This is the least contentious way of documenting the everyday life of ordinary people and empowering them to make images in the process. Host government interference is less likely under these conditions. But the films made are also a record which get behind the fast-moving big media razzmatazz. We meet people not normally seen on TV; we get to know them, their histories, and their hopes and fears. Chronicles does not entertain but it is engaging - very much so. The vignettes often just start and they don't always resolve happily - life goes on regardless. These are the stories which hardly ever get onto TV; these are the real victims of apartheid, whether the fearful Afrikaner right-wing, or the street children, or those being dispossessed.