Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version



Originally published in:

Carchidi, V. (1991). Representing South Africa: Apartheid from Print to Film. Film & History (03603695), 21(1), 20-27.

Publisher URL:


The article presents information on apartheid in South African motion pictures. "Cry Freedom," "A World Apart," "A Dry White Season" -- three major films on South Africa released within two years of each other -- share two striking facts. In each a black man is arrested, detained, tortured, and killed by South African police; and in each the focus is on apartheid's impact on its central white character. The three films under discussion doubly refine South Africa, as they are based on texts that span the range of print media: Donald Woods' autobiographical, journalistic, book "Biko," Shawn Slovo's semi-autobiographical screenplay, "A World Apart," and André Brink's straightforward fictional novel, "A Dry White Season." Each author writes from memories of living in South Africa, drawing upon the authority of having been there, having felt apartheid at work. The texts on which the films are based have clear, direct motivations: Woods wrote "Biko" in horrified revulsion against his sudden understanding of apartheid's brutality; Shawn Slovo wrote the screenplay of "A World Apart" in response to her mother's murder. Only Brink's novel has the aesthetic distance of a traditional fictional work, and indeed it does veer sharply away from issues of apartheid, happily miring itself in a sexual subplot.


motion pictures, apartheid in mass media, south africa



Date Posted: 15 December 2009

This document has been peer reviewed.