By Mahmoud H., Grade 12, Fredericton High School, Fredericton, NB
Directed by Darrell James Roodt
Hollywood Pictures, 1993
Wrapped in warm gold gift paper, Sarafina! is a shockingly vivid representation of how cruel and unjust white people were toward black people in South Africa.
This touching film recounts the story of how a courageous black teacher dares to defy the white people who committed racial injustice during the apartheid. Ms. Masembubo instills in her students a sense of pride in their culture, something which could not be found in their class textbooks. Through her class discussions, Ms. Masembubo inspires Sarafina, a vibrant and enthusiastic teenager to seek freedom and equality for black people.
Sarafina challenges her freedom when she helps her classmates murder a black police man who had betrayed his own people. From here the plot takes on a different character. The audience is guided through a flurry of horror. It is heart wrenching to watch the naive teen endure jail, interrogations and torture. As was the case with many black teenagers, Sarafina's spirit was severely dampened after this ordeal. It is her determination to honour Ms. Masembubo's legacy that kept her dream for black equality intact.
The director, Darrell James Roodt has produced a remarkable film that does not shy away from exposing the often overlooked aspects of abuse and death. He has masterfully woven thrilling and joyful scenes with those which are horrifying beyond imagination. The resulting contrast drops the audience from the dream world into cold, stark reality. Whoopie Goldberg is perfect for the part of the black school teacher. She makes Ms. Masembubo's character very dynamic and believable. Performing the lead role of Sarafina, Leleti Khumalo is dazzling from beginning to end. By identifying and balancing the international feelings of love and hate, the director has told a story which penetrates all races, religions and backgrounds.
What makes this film especially effective are the soundtracks of music written in the South African style. From the morning prayer to the funeral, the songs are very appropriate and they symbolise unity and solidarity among the black people. The dances are excellently choreographed, and this conveys the message that we must all learn to laugh and dance to a common song.
This film is excellent and it is recommended to anyone who is above the age of thirteen. Many of the scenes are very powerful, and the average person below the age of thirteen may not understand, or may be too horrified. Although presented in small doses, the sadness that accompanies oppression is intensely revealed in Sarafina!
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