South Africa: Celebrating 20 years of Freedom & Democracy through Film
On Monday 1st, 8th, 15th and 22nd September 2014, Black History Studies in association with Vue Entertainment presented a film festival based at Vue Cinema Wood Green titled ‘South Africa: Celebrating 20 years of Freedom & Democracy through Film’ funded by Film London’s Community Screen Scheme. This programme of documentary screenings celebrated the life and times of one of history’s greatest leaders Nelson Mandela (1918 – 2013) and celebrated the 20th anniversary of democracy in South Africa.
The programme consisted of four films shown over the four weeks (every Monday in September):
- Monday 1st September 2014 – Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
- Monday 8th September 2014 – Five Roads To Freedom: From Apartheid To The World Cup
- Monday 15th September 2014 – Behind The Rainbow
- Monday 22nd September 2014 – Amandla! A Revolution In Four-Part Harmony
The objectives of the project were to uncover the hidden history of Haringey and its links to the movements in South Africa. Haringey has a unique association with South Africa and Nelson Mandela. Nelson Mandela spent 10 days on a visit to London in 1962 in meetings with the External Mission of the African National Congress (ANC) whose members sought refuge in Haringey such as Oliver Tambo and Thabo Mbeki. The first Mandela Birthday concert was organised on 18 July 1983 at Alexandra Palace and the late MP for Tottenham Bernie Grant served as an Executive of the Anti-Apartheid Movement in the UK.
We used the film programme and post-screening discussions to introduce this hidden history and to highlight the fact that the South African exile community chose Haringey as their home and that Haringey was the birthplace of the campaign to Free Mandela. The films also highlighted personalities such as Nelson Mandela, Miriam Makeba and others whose struggles and sacrifices contributed to ridding South African of the evils of apartheid.
The project met Film London’s Community Screen Scheme’s objectives of the scheme as it brought film exhibition activity to Wood Green which had been lacking since 2010 and tried to increase numbers of delegates attending the Vue Cinema in Wood Green, which has been taken over due to low attendance numbers. Apart from the Mandela film, the films shown at the film festival were not widely known to the general public, which we received positive feedback about in the evaluation forms. Also, it was good to work with a commercial partner such as Vue Entertainment as films about African History are not shown in commercial cinemas and especially not in North London. Films screenings and activities like our film festival tend to be located in South London.
A legacy of this project is to continue to work with Vue Entertainment to host film festivals in Wood Green so that we diversify the geographical spread of African History events in London. We have retained the audience who attended the film festival by including them on the Black History Studies mailing list to invite them to our regular film programme and other film programmes we are involved with such as BFI African Odyssey and The New Black Film Collective.
In evaluation of the project, we believe that our successes were that we were able to raise awareness of the hidden history of Wood Green and the personalities that contributed to the liberation struggle against apartheid and 39% of the people that attended the film festival had not been to a Black History Studies screening before. We were disappointed with the low delegate numbers that attended the screenings which may have be down to the day of the week of the screenings and/or promotion.
AUDIENCE FEEDBACK BY FILM
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom
“Thank you to Black History Studies for showing the amazing film A Long Walk to Freedom. I found the film to be very moving and brilliantly made. The Black community needs a venue like this to show more films of African / Caribbean origin”
“Great opportunity to watch a movie close to my heart that I missed the first time around. Deep, though provoking, informative and pulled at my heart strings.”
“Lovely, inspirational and educational. This particular screening showed me or reinforced to me that it is peace we are seeking not war. As long as keep the flame of hope alive, we can to live good”
“I am very glad to have had the opportunity to see this film. I’m really impressed by how well the film managed to convey the complexities and nuances that the man himself was so careful to include in his own words”
“I enjoyed watching the film very much and it was pretty much what I have come to expect from a film of this genre, it was real and raw. Sad, emotional and unbelievable this could have happened and still continues around the world. Well done to the filmmakers and the actors involved”
Five Roads To Freedom: From Apartheid To The World Cup
“Very insightful and powerful film highlighting stories and experiences of those on the frontline during apartheid. These are stories that must continue to be told and this screening has helped us not to forget the not so distant past.”
“This documentary told the story of apartheid from several sides. Very happy that I had a chance to watch it. I believe these films are vital. I hope to see more screenings.”
“It was an interesting film which illustrates many perspectives. It stirred a lot of emotions within me as many of the narratives are emotionally charged. The film is honest and shows the problems of the new South Africa and also the hope and benefit the struggle has brought.”
“Inspiring and insightful. South Africa has evolved in more ways than the media tells us. Events which occurred years ago during and after apartheid still occur in the daily lives of those still alive today. Will the people of South Africa truly be united and at peace and acceptance of one another or will history repeat itself? Everyone has to be accepting of change. One size doesn’t fit all”
“Thank you for screening Five Roads to Freedom. It was interesting to see how the struggle for freedom from apartheid affected the lives of ordinary people both black and white in South Africa.”
Behind The Rainbow
“I found the film about the ANCs struggle for freedom, very interesting”
“Very informative. Wonderful background information”
“Being South African, growing up in the time of apartheid having dodged rubber bullets and running away from police, South Africa must be left to sort out its own destiny”
“Very interesting reflection on the reality of the political climate in South Africa. I was unaware of the power struggle within the ANC. Thank you for hosting the event”
“This was a great film and provided me with information I did not know about.”
Amandla! A Revolution In Four – Part Harmony
“Very inspirational – a new angle to a historical journey and struggle. Very informative”
“Listening and watching the screening felt sad, but yet strong. Strong and proud that my people fought, believed and sang for their cause. Their struggles are our struggles just wrapped up in a different package”
“Very enlightening. It would be nice to see more of this type of enlightening film. History and facts must not be forgotten or distorted. Well done for bringing this film to the Vue”
“Educational film which illustrated the importance of song as a tool of resistance. The footage showed the reality of those who went through the struggle. The film left you feeling joyful”
“Excellent! A powerful documentary. I want to learn these songs! I want to learn some African languages. I will be going online to find out more about the people the documentary spoke about”
“Thanks a lot for screening, it was a beautiful movie. It was great to see how music and activism blended together to help bring down formal apartheid. It was also great in depicting how deeply music was embedded in the struggle”
We would like to thank the following people who were involved in this project:
- Christopher Icha & Lija Icha – JetBlakInk MultipleMediaManagement.
- Dawn Gobourne – Librarian & Enquiries Information Officer at the Marcus Garvey.
- Priscilla Igwe – The New Black Film Collective.
- Legett Muhammad – Volunteer.
- Lorna Campbell
- Sonia Scully
- Janelle Oswald