The real face of Apartheid
(Editor: Annalisa Wellhäuser)
The largest film festival in Germany, the „Berlinale„, has been attended by „SÜDAFRIKA – Land der Kontraste“, the German Gateway to South Africa. With thanks to the Berlinale section Generation, we have observed selected events and made a report. „History Uncut: Manenberg“ and „History Uncut: Crossroads“ – a documentary collection – are focussing on South Africa during the apartheid.
Afravision (Brian Tilley, Laurence Dworkin): „History Uncut„
Co-curated by Darryl Els and Claus Löser
Sunday, 2/13/2010, Cinema Arsenal at Potsdamer Platz in Berlin
Episode 1: Crossroads
Switch off the lights, the movie starts, open your eyes: as if I had used a time-machine for a journey back into the past ,out of a sudden I find myself in May/June 1986 of the former Apartheid-State of South Africa. Place of the setting: „Crossroads„, an informal settlement for „ black„ South Africans ,important centre for movements of resistance; actually it was given the status of an „emergency camp„ and therefore being immune to the mass clearance of townships by the state. Of course the government was not pleased about this immunity…..So here I am….in the middle of a brutal battle between-well, one does not even know who belongs to which group, it is a chaos…People ,especially boys who are only teenagers are running from one site to the other…they are chasing each other….shooting….screams…wherever I look I see destroyed and burning houses of corrugated iron sheet…It is this group with the strips of white cloth, they are attacking us…it is the „Witdoeks„, our vigilance committee. Why are they doing that? It`s our own people! Where did they get the weapons from? We have to fight back…self-made arms out of wood, stones, gunpowder in plastic bottles, which are being thrown…on the street: two men on the floor…covered by blood all over… they are dead…. I see women sitting on the street corner with their babies and the things which they still managed to rescue from their homes…they are waiting for help….
© Scene from „Histroy Uncut: Manenberg“ (Source: Berlinale)
© Logo of film festival „Berlinale“ (Source: Wikimedia)
Cut- change of scene
Women standing with their babies at the entrance of the parliament of Cape Town. They are hopeless and are looking for help. „ We don`t know what you are talking about, we cannot do anything for you„, they get told in Afrikaans by a politician. As a symbol of protest the women start to feign crying and lay down their crying babies in front of the parliament.
According to the TRC, the Truth Reconciliation Commission of South Africa, South African police contributed weapons to and supported groups of „black„ South Africans like the ,,Witdoeks„, a vigilance committee in Crossroads, and thereby „used „ them in order to suppress movements of resistance during the time of Apartheid. Thus the government seeked their aim without being blamed for anything. In total 60.000 people became homeless and 60 people died.
Episode 2: Manenberg
It is September 1989, the election day of the tricameral parliament of South Africa. „white„ and limitedly „coloured„ and „indian´` South Africans are allowed to vote.
The „black„ population is excluded from the right to vote. In „Manenberg„ , a township for „coloured„ South Africans there are protests taking place. And me- I see, no, I experience closely what happens on that day in the streets of Manenberg: I am in a house and I am looking out of a window. The police pitches up out of nowhere and starts shooting randomly with rubber munition at the residents of the place. Yes, it even seems like they do so because they enjoy seeing other people suffering. The police men throw stones at the people, use tear gas and chase them into their houses with whips. The inhabitants ,especially young people, react by throwing stones as well and by building street barriers out of car wheels, litter, pieces of furniture and stones to which they set fire. It is a seesaw. The police arrives frequently and it results in a conflict: Shooting, screams….I`m afraid that they will discover me, but I`m lucky-they don`t.
Cut- Change of scene:
A boy is lieing half covered in a bed, his entire body is full bullet wounds caused by the rubber munition of the police. Another boy`s head is bandaged up and his nose is covered by plasters…A women expresses a direct appeal to the South African government, she claims a democratic, NON- racial discriminatorial electoral system.
These scenes were never shown on South African television; they are part of the archive`s material of the video collective Afravision, which contains the biggest documentation of video of the history of resistance. Afravision was founded by Brian Tilley, Laurence Dworkin und Mokoenyana Moletse in order to keep records of the numerous battles in South Africa in the 1980s .
An extraordinary and fascinating contribution to the Berlinale of 2010. Uncut and pure- this film shows simply the reality and truth-the tragic reality of the past South Africa. Such a close experience of history; it feels as if having been present at that time. It is unbelievable, because suddenly it is not a „story„ anymore that one happened to read in a „history book„ and that seems unreal and far away from oneself. Out of a sudden it is my own reality too. I`m part of it. After watching the film, I`m only left with one single thought dominating my mind: While I can return into my secure reality of the present Germany, this „ film„ did continue for the people in South Africa at that time. Those people, who I met just now, could not flee in contrary to me who just switches off the movie. For them it was a nightmare and they did not know if it would ever end. This is horrible.
The 2010sdafrika-editorial staff would like to thank to the team of Berlinale section Panorama for supporting our service.