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Spotlight On South Africa

Friday, June 16----In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Soweto Riots, a tipping point in the decades-long struggle of black South Africans to end the abusive system of apartheid, the SILVERDOCS festival is hosting a special program of films by South African documentarians, who have turned their probing camera eyes on their homeland.

Seven films (five features and two shorts) are being presented, including the world premiere this evening of SOWETO BLUES, a musical documentary that remembers the Soweto uprising through the prism of musical artists who gave voice to the struggle and engaged audiences around the globe. Using their music to raise awareness about the black South African struggle for equality, the film, directed by Faith Isiakpere and Firdoze Bulbulia, mixes strong political statements with intoxicating rhythmic music. A free outdoor concert of South African music preceded the world premiere screening.

While Soweto was a milestone in the eventual rise to power of Nelson Mandela, other lesser known rebels have taken their place in South African modern history. In the film SENZENI-NA, director Portia Rankoane brings us the tale of Tsietsi Mashini, a fierce 19-year-old who was one of the leaders of the Soweto riots in 1976. In her film, Rankoane explores the movement's roots and expresses worry over why today's young blacks know so little about the man who led the charge for their liberation.

South Africa after apartheid is the subject of several of the films in the program. In veteran director Nick Broomfield's controversial HIS BIG WHITE SELF, a portrait emerges of Eugene Terreblanche, the remorseless leader of the African Nazi Party, whose racist incitements are a hold-over from decades of white colonial rule.

In Francois Verster's THE MOTHER'S HOUSE, a teenager lives on the edge between poverty and opportunity in the new South Africa. Director Rehad Desai explores the ways that traditional healing practices are being adopted by Western pharmaceutical companies in the revelatory THE BUSHMAN'S SECRETS.

The program, which includes a panel discussion with visiting South African directors, was developed in collaboration with the Encounters: Southern African International Documentary Film Festival, with support from the US State Department, the Ford Foundation and the Embassy of South Africa.

Sandy Mandelberger

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Dates: June 13-18, 2006

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