Mzansi must-see movies

2009-09-23 10:47
Gugu Mkhabela & Tiisetso Tlelima

1. Sophiatown (2003)
A well crafted documentary that brings the history and music of Sophiatown to vibrant life without resorting to a bitter and angry attack on apartheid. Featuring the "Halle Berry of the 50s" sis Dolly Rathebe, Dorothy Masuku, Abigail Khubeka, Hugh Masekela and many more.
Read our review

2. Catch a Fire (2006)
A documentary-styled movie about Patrick Chamusso who was a hard working, apolitical foreman at the Secunda Oil Refinery in the 1980s. It's one of those untold stories of unsung heroes of the struggle with a message of freedom, forgiveness, and hope for the future.
Read our review

3. Hijack Stories (2000)
Fast-paced, humorous and ghetto fabulous – a slice of the 'New South Africa'. It's a taste of South African authenticity with no high budget action and no pretenses. Just the basics needed to take the audience on a journey revolving around the culture shock of an educated black guy (Toni Kgoroge) who plunges in Soweto gangster culture.
Read our review

4. Sarafina (1992)
This is a classic musical that highlights the Soweto student riots during the apartheid era and on achieving freedom. It's been 15 years since the movie's debut but the message is still pertinent today.
Check out the website

5. Drum (2005)
And the beat goes on! Sophiatown is brought back to life as this film explores the life and times of the legendary Drum journalist Henry Nxumalo played by the dishy Taye Diggs. Even though it received criticism for not using a local actor, the ladies really dig having Diggs as the main man.

6. The Story of an African Farm (2004)
This adaptation of local author Olive Schreiner's novel is often described as a great love song to the Karoo and one of the best films ever to emerge from Mzansi. Set in the late 19th century it frankly explores and portrays feminism, love, worship, premarital sex and loneliness.
Read our review

7. Bopha (1993)
Even though it is clearly hostile towards apartheid, this film is willing to recognize that many decent people served the system. Danny Glover gives a splendid performance as a man who is utterly sincere and utterly mistaken.

8. The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)
A story about a bushman from the Kalahari Desert (played by a Namibian bush farmer N!xau) whose clan has no knowledge of the world beyond. A unique, entertaining and hilarious movie. The film is followed by four sequels, the final three of which were made in Hong Kong.
Check the website out

9. Schuster movies
SA's king of comedy and candid camera, Leon Schuster, loves to make people laugh. He has a special place in most Mzansi movie fans' hearts with films like Panic Mechanic, Mr Bones, There's a Zulu on my Stoep, Millennium Menace, Mama Jack and many more. He's right on top of the local cinema game.
Check out his website

10. The Flyer (2005)
An uplifting story about a young coloured kid saved from the mean streets of Cape Town by an old trapeze great, and indoctrinated into a gravity-defying world of trapeze flying! But the fly bar between success and failure swings in the balance as his past and present collide to dramatic effect.

11. In my Country/Country of my skull (2004)
Another apartheid film that features Samuel L Jackson and French actress Juliette Binoche. An adaptation of Antjie Krog's autobiographical book "Country of My Skull", it's a moving tale of how the human spirit triumphs against all odds.

12. Cry Freedom (1987)
The story of South African black consciousness leader and activist Steve Biko (Denzel Washington) and the relationship he forms with liberal white South African newspaper editor Donald Woods (Kevin Kline). Denzel is convincing and powerful as Biko and Kline is sincere. With its searing condemnation of racism and violence in SA, this film will move and haunt you long after you've seen it.

13. Max and Mona (2004)
A classic "Jimmy" comes to Jozi movie. It will crack you up as Max Bua leaves his country life behind in the hopes of becoming a doctor in Johannesburg. But the big city has different plans for him though, and he learns the hard way.

14. Conversations on a Sunday Afternoon (2005)
In this docu-drama about xenophobia and immigration, Keniloe (Tony Kgoroge) roams the overcrowded Johannesburg streets in search of Fatima, a refugee he saw every Sunday at the park. During his search he comes across many other refugees both from Africa and non-African countries. The film shows those South Africans leaving the country in fear of crime that conditions are much worse in other places.
Read our review

15. U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (2005)
Translated into Xhosa, U-Carmen is Mzansi's version of Bizet's 19th century opera love story, "Carmen". Set in Khayelitsha, the film brilliantly merges the original score with South African traditional music. It won the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival.
Read our movie feature

16. Boesman and Lena (2001)
Based on Athol Fugard's infamous play, the movie is a glimpse into the lives of a coloured couple uprooted from their shanty town by Afrikaners during the apartheid era. Carrying all their possessions on their shoulders, Boesman and Lena roam the streets of the Cape Flats looking for shelter. Amidst endless quarrels, their love for the bottle and flashbacks of happier days, we are drawn into the couple's complicated life in which they struggle define their existence.

17. Mapantsula (1988)
Street-wise small-time crook Panic is incarcerated with anti-apartheid activists, and is forced to choose between being a police informant and taking a stand against the system. Filmed in Soweto during the mid-80s the film reveals the prominence of acting as a collective. It was once banned for fear of increasing political unrest!

18. Yesterday (2004)
A young Zulu mother who learns she has Aids is rejected by her mine labourer husband who infected her with the disease, and then focuses all her attention on her seven-year-old daughter. This is an emotive film about a woman who's left to fend for herself, has to deal with her diagnosis and her daughter's future.
Read our review

19. Tsotsi (2005)
A ruthless Soweto slums gangster hijacks a suburban woman only to discover there's a baby in the back seat of the car. This is not your usual township thug-life movie where gangsters are stripped off their humanity. Instead the film looks at how the baby's presence helps Tsotsi deal with his own troubled past. The movie is based on Athol Fugard's novel with the same name. If you haven't watched this movie yet you're probably the only South African who hasn't seen our very proudly South African Oscar-winner!
Read our review

20. Red Dust (2005)
Oscar-winner Hillary Swank stars in this murder mystery about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. When a police officer asks for amnesty, a tortured political activist with amnesia thinks he may be responsible for his friend's disappearance.
Read our review

21. Bunny Chow (2007)
Three stand-up comedians, Kags, Dave and Joey, embark on a weekend getaway to the annual Oppikoppi rock festival where they are to perform. Shot in black and white, the movie tracks the three comedians' journey through the dirt road hoping to conquer the rock stages with their ridiculous and raw comedy.
Read our review

22. Faith Like Potatoes (2006)
Inspired by the life of Angus Buchan and his family, a Zambian farmer of Scottish descent is forced to leave his farm due to political unrest. He moves to KwaZulu-Natal and starts to build a new life. But it's not without challenges, turmoil and hardships.
Read the review

23. Number 10 (2006)
Sports drama fans will love this recount of the life of a provincial rugby player who has to fight tooth and nail for a place in the national team. As if that's not hard enough, he has to deal with his estranged father who is appointed the provincial coach. This Hollywood-style film stars the charismatic Colin Moss and the Kwaito singer, Mandoza.

24. Promised Land (2002)
Born in SA but raised in England, George Neethling returns to his mother country and has to deal with a small-minded Afrikaner community that's not too happy with the new South Africa. The film deals with issues of racism, prejudice and intolerance still prevalent in Mzansi today. Based on the Karel Schoeman's novel, "Na Die Geliefde Land", and translated into English this film won the Best Screenplay Award at the Tokyo International Film Festival in 2002.
Read our movie feature

Happy watching SA!


  • Brul - 2007-09-24 07:43

    One sided Like usual these kind of games you play are so one-sided. Obviously young people compiled this list. Why not the proudly South Africa Boesman and Lena with Athol Fugard and Yvonne Bryceland, much better than the American effort they list? No Jans Rautenbach or Manie van Rensburg movie? Gugu and Tiisetso probably never heard of them. They probably don't even care. If you continue playing this kind of game, please play it responsibly and give recognition to all.

  • Willie - 2007-09-24 08:35

    Is that the only choices? Ja, nee. What can we say? Not bad for a start but I think you can do better. There is a history in SA before 1994.

  • Owen - 2007-09-24 08:52

    What about "Forgiveness"? Your list of some fine movies omits the excellent and powerful movie of a few years ago "Forgiveness". This surely deserves a spot above "Number 10" which your reviewer describes - (I think accurately - have not seen it) - as "unspeakably bad".

  • Luso - 2007-09-24 18:35

    flying up close to the sun South African film still has a long way to go. But I must say my favourites on this list are 'The Flyer' and 'Faith Like Potatoes'. They are not the usual suspects and present aspects of South African life that I think international audiences have not seen. In fact, South African audiences tend not to understand, nor to give credence to their own country, and the wealth (not mineral, not animal) that it has. I don't think it matters what age you are, recognizing great art is an art in itself. well done girls. Yes you did forget 'Forgiveness' however!

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