Come Back, Africa–The Amazing Secret Film from 1959 South Africa

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Milestone Films, a great film distribution company and purveyer  such fascinating films as The Exiles and Killer of Sheep, has just released Lionel Rogosin’s secretly filmed Come Back Africa, a narrative about the harsh reality of life under apartheid in late 1950s South Africa.    Cruelty and injustice are the themes of much of the film, but there are great moments of musical joy, like the young Miriam Makeba singing informally for friends.

I was a fan of the BBC  clandestinely-filmed Rhythms of Resistance, filmed in South Africa in the mid 1970s.  It showcased how black music helped people cope with the injustices fostered and supported by the racist government. It was released in the early 1980s to great acclaim and is still available.

I have yet to watch the new film but am already excited to see it appear.  One has to imagine the risks taken in filming it in 1959.   It is a rare glimpse into a time and place we will rarely ever encounter otherwise.  I have no doubt that it will be moving testimony to human strength under duress and a powerful document showing human courage under repression.  Martin Scorcese said of the film “a heroic film….a film of terrible beauty, of the ongoing life it captured and of the spirit embodied by Rogosin and his fellow artists”.

Here is a link of the trailer, which features the young beauty Miriam Makeba, who was just embarking on her career.