Tomorrow, Thursday, 9 August 2018 is Women’s Day in South Africa, when South Africans commemorate the 1956 march of approximately 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country’s Apartheid pass laws.
Here’s a selection of six South African classics – just released on Showmax – that capture the courage of South African woman… and the issues they still face.
Premise: Rachel, a Mozambican domestic worker living in Johannesburg, is forced to make a life-changing decision after her daughter dies while under the care of her employers: return to poverty-stricken Mozambique or continue working for the people responsible for the death of her child. Things become even more complicated when she finds out that her employers are expecting their first child.
Why you should watch: As Theresa Smith wrote, it’s “an uncomfortably close look at the smothering maid/madam relationship as it plays out in so many South African homes. It tracks the relationship between these two women who live in each other’s space, know each other’s intimate details, but have a very uneven power dynamic. It makes you question your own relationships long after the flickering images are gone from your retina.”
Accolades: Sink won five SAFTAs last year and five Silwerskerm awards.
2. Dis Ek, Anna
Premise: Based on a true story told in an award-winning book of the same name, Dis Ek, Anna is a courtroom drama about the case of a woman who killed her stepfather after suffering years of sexual abuse.
Why you should watch: Because 109.1 rapes were recorded each day in 2016/2017 – and that’s just what was reported. Because children are the victims of 41% of reported rapes.
Accolades: Dis Ek, Anna won six SAFTAs and three Silwerskerm awards.
Premise: Sassy 20-year-old Tess sells her body on Cape Town’s streets. She survives by popping painkillers and through her wry humour. But her life turns upside down when she falls pregnant.
Why you should watch: 1. Director Meg Rickards coaxed an award-winning performance from rising star Christia Visser in the title role 2. It’s set in Muizenberg, which really doesn’t feature in enough films. 3. It’s based on Tracey Farren’s acclaimed novel Whiplash – and Farren wrote the SAFTA-nominated script.
Accolades: Best South African Film, Best Actress and Best Editing (Linda Man) at Durban. Best Actress, Best Editing and Best Cinematography (Bert Haitsma) at Silwerskerm. Best Actress and Best Screenplay nominations at the SAFTAs.
Premise: After her University graduation, Elelwani (Florence Masebe) returns to her rural family to introduce her boyfriend and announce their plans to emigrate and spend the rest of their lives together, but her father has promised her to the local king instead.
Why you should watch: 1. It’s billed as the first Venda feature film. 2. Tsotsi cinematographer Lance Gewer captures the glorious green backdrop of the Thohoyandou area of Limpopo. 3. It’s written and directed by Ntshavheni Wa Luruli (Berlin-winner The Wooden Camera), who captures the urban-rural tensions so many South Africans live with.
Accolades: Florence Masebe won Best Actress at the Africa Movie Academy Awards, where Elelwani also took home Best Production Design from its 11 nominations.
5. Little One
Premise: A six-year-old girl is left for dead outside a township in Johannesburg but is found by a woman (Lindiwe Ndlovu) who takes her to hospital and then oversees her recovery.
Why you should watch: “Darrell Roodt’s film Little One is a poignant, moving, and minimalist narrative which is unapologetically South African,” said the South African Academy Award Selection Committee, who chose Little One as our 2013 Foreign Film Oscar entry. “It is a universal story made local, with brilliant performances.”
Accolades: Lindiwe Ndlovu won the Best Actress SAFTA for her role.
Premise: In this update of George Bizet’s classic opera, Carmen, Pauline Malefane plays a township woman who will not be tamed, who seduces a religious policeman into a fatal affair.
Why you should watch: 1. It’s one of the world’s great operas, in Xhosa, in a township. 2. The New York Times hailed it as “brilliantly acted” and praised the “ the decision to cast two leads with actors who aren’t svelte, then insist upon their sexiness.”
Accolades: u-Carmen eKhayelitsha became the first South African film to win the Golden Bear at Berlin – the top award at one of the world’s top film festivals. It has a 95% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Village Voice saying that the adaptation “was basically the best decision ever.”