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By Bonginkosi Tiwane

Digital Journalist


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

The classic 1992 musical drama returns to the prominent Cannes film festival in France, under the Cannes Classics section. This is a first for a South African film.


“It is exciting to be returning to the Cannes Film Festival with Sarafina! after 30 years. Being selected for Cannes Classics is a rare and coveted recognition,” the film’s producer, Anant Singh, said.

“We are privileged and thrilled that Sarafina! has notched up another first by becoming 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 festival runs from 16 to 27 May.

With a backdrop of the Sarafina! poster, Leleti Khumalo shared the news with her followers on Instagram yesterday.

Actress Dawn Thandeka King was one of the many that celebrated with Khumalo. “Congratulations Mama, Sarafina deserves all the accolades,” wrote King.

While Basetsana Kumalo also applauded the accolade writing in the post “this is just absolutely fantastic and so well deserved! Sithi halala”.

READ NOW: As Sarafina! carries on its run, Winnie says she’s still waiting for freedom

A South African classic

Sarafina! is a definitive Mzansi film that helped kick-start the careers of some of South Africa’s biggest stars today.

It starred a young Khumalo, a youthful Somizi Mhlongo and Doja Cat’s father, Dumisani Dlamini.

“It is so exciting to be going back to the Cannes Film Festival. In 1992, we had a 20-minute standing ovation – what an amazing experience it was! I look forward to reliving that moment again this year,” said Khumalo.

The film shows the strength of young women who made their mark in South Africa’s journey to freedom. 

It’s 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. It is a screenplay by Mbongeni Ngema and William Nicholson.

Academy award winner Whoopi Goldberg played the character of inspirational teacher, Mary Masembuko, who teaches her students at a Soweto high school she just joined about self-worth at the height of apartheid.

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”.

Other stalwarts on the cast include Miriam Makeba and John Kani.

NOW READ: Classic South African play ‘Woza Albert!’ returns to stage to highlight struggles of apartheid

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