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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist


Sarafina! wraps up a successful 2023 with honours at Marrakech Film Festival

The film that was released more than 30 years ago was recently added to streaming platform Netflix and was invited to the Cannes film festival again in 2023.


The year 2023 has been a fulfilling one for South African classic film Sarafina! more than 30 years after it debuted on big screens.

Sarafina! was honoured with a Special Screening at the 20th edition of the Marrakech International Film Festival at the prestigious 700-seater Cinéma le Colisee with lead star, Leleti Khumalo in attendance.

“We are delighted that Leleti attended the successful screening at the Marrakech Film Festival where the audience acknowledged the powerful storyline and its impact on society,” said the film’s producer Anant Singh.

“We are also thrilled that Sarafina! has achieved Top 10 status on Netflix this week. The Netflix platform has opened up a whole new audience for Sarafina! and further entrenches the film as an audience favourite among a multi-generational audience.”

The film had a stellar cast that included South African legends such as Miriam Makeba, Mbongeni Ngema and John Kani alongside Academy Award winner Whoopi Goldberg. Sarafina! is a screenplay by Ngema and William Nicholson and is directed by Darrell James Roodt.

Speaking of the relevance of the film in today’s world, Goldberg said: “Keep talking to the kids because they are going to fix it, they are going to make it happen, they are going to make change happen”.

The US actress portrayed the character of inspirational teacher Mary Masembuko, who is a new teacher at a Soweto high school that teaches her students about self-worth during the height of apartheid.

ALSO READ: Sarafina! becomes first SA film to return to Cannes Film Festival after 30 years

A brilliant 2023

The Marrakech honour and their placing on Netflix follows another accolade earlier this year, when Sarafina! became the first South African film to be selected twice by the Cannes Film Festival, the most prestigious festival in the world.

The Cannes Classics section recognises films which are deemed to be works of quality which have contributed to the evolution of motion picture arts and encouraged the development of the film industry throughout the world.

This selection is unprecedented for a South African film as Sarafina! had its World Premiere three decades ago as part of the Official Selection of the Festival.

The film shows the strength of young black women who made their mark in South Africa’s fight against apartheid.

As a way of paying homage to the role of women during the struggle for freedom, the film was released in cinemas during Women’s Month in August this year in South Africa and various African countries  such as Zimbabwe, Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria and Namibia.

Sarafina! is a combination of drama, music and dance-all under a cloud of political turmoil in the country. The story is based on the watershed event of 16 June 1976, which changed the course of South Africa’s history.  

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