The unique history of South Africa forms an often fascinating setting for a number of must-watch movies. Here is a list of the very best.
This sci-fi from South African director Neill Blomkamp is very highly rated for good reason. It succeeds in blending an interesting, original plot with memorable characters and creature effects. The story is about a spaceship full of aliens that crash lands in Soweto, the sprawling informal housing settlement near Johburg. These ‘prawns’ quickly become the target of xenophobia, although their advanced technology is prized. South African Sharlto Copley plays a government agent assigned to deal with the aliens who instead finds himself on their side. It won four Academy Awards, and remains a top DVDs for sale on Gumtree.
This 1964 war movie, starring a young Michael Caine, is based on the events of Rorke’s Drift. This was a very bloody encounter in 1879 between the Zulus of Natal and the British Army. The history involves the British having recently suffered a major defeat to a Zulu sneak attack at Isindlwana, and the remains of their regional forces defend a field hospital from wave upon wave of Zulu attackers. A famous South African leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi, plays the Zulu King in the film. The scenery of the majestic Drakensberg Mountains and the thousands of traditionally garbed extras make for some amazing visuals.
The Bang Bang Club
Another film based on real events, this film dramatizes the so-called Bang Bang Club, four South African photographers who captured the transition period from white to black rule. These photographers exposed themselves to great personal risk to capture the violence between rival black political organisations. Two of these photographers won Pulitzer Prizes for their work.
This charming film is based on a South African novel by Donovan Marsh. It tells the tale a young boy sent to Michaelhouse, a prestigious boarding school in Natal. The film is set around the time of Mandela’s release. It stars John Cleese as a teacher who befriends the young boy, nicknamed Spud, and advises him on the trials and tribulations as he struggles to win the acceptance of his new classmates.
This epic biography depicts the life of the famous Indian leader who spent much of his early life in South Africa, during the time it was under the rule of the British. Ben Kingsley delivers a brilliant performance of Gandhi. The story is split between Gandhi’s later life in India and his early days in South Africa, where being thrown from a train due to his race inspires his journey to leadership.
This film tells the explosive real-life story of police Captain André Stander who turns to a life of crime. Stander is motivated by his shooting of a protestor during major rioting and chaos in the Soweto townships. This act causes him to break with his police career, and he becomes as effective a criminal as he was law officer. Talented acting makes this is a great crime thriller, and it’s all the more memorable for being a true story.
The Gods Must Be Crazy
This old school South African comedy was released in 1980 as the first in a series. It tells the story of a Kalahari Bushman called Xi, who lives a very isolated existence in the desert with his tribe. When a Coke bottle is dropped from a light aircraft, Xi finds it and returns it to his tribe, who interpret it as a sign from the gods. The bottle leads to trouble within his tribe though, so Xi goes on a quest to dispose of it over the ‘edge of the world.’ Along the way, he encounters a host of characters who help or hinder him in his quest.