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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Welcome home, Mapantsula!

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Mapantsula, widely regarded as the first true anti-apartheid film, and also widely pirated in the late 1980’s, has been restored to a 4K version and will Premiere for the first time in South Africa later this month.


The 1988 cult classic, directed by the award winning Oliver Schmitz and written by Schmitz and Thomas Mogotlane, tells the story of Johannes ‘Panic’ Themba Mzolo (Mogotlane), a small-time thief in Soweto, set against the backdrop of Apartheid.


But as the world around him shifts with the burgeoning anti-apartheid efforts, Panic finds himself having to choose between his selfish goals and becoming a part of a larger movement to fight the racism that has controlled his country for so long.


Upon it’s premier in the 1988 Cannes Film Festival it opened to massive critical acclaim and praise for its artistic value and raising awareness of the South African struggle. The film was also selected as the South African entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 62nd Academy Awards, but was not accepted as a nominee.


It was obviously banned in its original form in South Africa – and as a result the main audience the film was made for, were never able to watch it.


With a Johannesburg Premiere on 10 August, and a wider release on 18 August, this will be the first time Mapantsula will play in it’s country of origin in its uncensored form.



The screenings have been made possible by London Based distributor/production company, WHAT THE HERO WANTS (WTHW) and The Durban International Film festival, along with participating theaters chains including Ster Kinekor and CineCentre.


The Director Oliver Schmitz had this to say about the upcoming 2023 South African release:


“I am delighted that Mapantsula is finally being seen in South Africa the way it should have been 35 years ago. Mapantsula was made against all odds by brave actors and a team. We celebrate and honor those who are no longer there but who will never be forgotten. First and foremost we honor Thomas Matsobane Mogotlane, Dolly Rathebe, Lloyd Lelosa, Nana Coyote Motijoane and Mesh Mapetla. We are proud to have worked together, we are proud of our achievement.”


Dr. Thembi Mtshali-Jones, the lead actress in Mapantsula said:


“This moment is full circle and emotional. I threw myself into the role of Pat on Mapantsula as a young actress in my 1st feature film. I told a story and set it out into the universe, it was for a time such as this that this movie comes back home. We shot Mapantsula at great risk, as artists, and as a result of the then apartheid laws and government, the movie was never shown in South Africa. For it to be shown on home soil is not only a dream come true for me, its also a movie that holds up the baton of victory for a freedom we fought for and our heros such as Nelson Mandela were willing to die for. Welcome home Mapantsula.”


WTHW CO-CEO, Aaryan K. Trivedi:


“When considering how the film should be released – we strongly felt that it should be a celebration and event. We want to find ways to innovate the distribution process and movie going experience – So when discussing the potential of bringing the festival to every province with this film – we decided with the rebellious nature of the making of the film – it feels appropriate that its release should be radical and special too.“



Andrea Voges, Durban Film Festival Manager director said:


“Mapantsula is not just a movie; it is a cultural touchstone that tells the story of a nation’s struggle against Apartheid. We are proud to be part of this radical distribution partnership that celebrates and honours this pivotal film and brings the festival experience country-wide, making it more accessible to all. We hope it inspires filmmakers to keeping telling stories that matter.”


ALSO READ: ‘Barbenheimer’ annihilates box office with opening

Liesl Smit
Liesl Smit
Liesl is the Smile 90.4FM News Manager. She has been at Smile since 2016, with nearly 20 years experience in the radio industry, including reading news, field reporting and producing. In 2008 she won the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award, Western Cape region. liesl@smile904.fm

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