5 Films that Convey South Africa's Richly Diverse History

We're loving these historical films on Showmax.

Sponsored content from Showmax

I remember watching the movie Invictus and being in awe of the history of our country and how something as relatively simple as a rugby tournament could unite an entire country—a divided and wounded country. South Africa had just witnessed the release of Nelson Mandela, the first democratic elections and his inauguration as President of the country. That is the power of film and television - its ability to narrate richly diverse stories. And so I figure there is no better way to take a walk down memory lane and reflect on our past as a country than with a few of the best films and documentaries currently on Showmax.

Shaka Zulu: Citadel

The Zulu people are an immensely proud tribe in South Africa and this is largely to do with one of their greatest warriors and kings, Shaka Zulu. You know, Zulu people get a bad rap sometimes for expecting every South African to learn their language while not doing the same in return. However, as you watch this film, you begrudgingly see why. It tells the story of King Shaka and his war against the white settlers. It's an extraordinarily powerful narrative. I had chills down my spine at Henry Cele's portrayal of the great Zulu king. Do yourself a favour and give it a watch. You will not be disappointed.

The Boers at the End of the World

This documentary tells the story of a small group of Afrikaners who moved to Patagonia almost a century ago following the Anglo-Boer War (or South African War), a key event in South African history. It concentrates on the story of the descendants rather than the story of their ancestors. We see how the small community of Afrikaans speakers is dwindling as the later generations marry into Spanish-speaking Patagonian families. It is a wistful documentary telling a story of nostalgia rather than anger or bitterness at the imminent loss of a culture and heritage. Definitely a must-see.

The Hangman

Set in apartheid South Africa, this a hauntingly beautiful and multi-award winning short film that had me wiping away tears at one point. It follows the story of a family of three that is torn apart when the father mysteriously disappears one night. His son, a young boy then, grows up believing the very worst of his father, that he had walked out on him and his mother. After finding work at a maximum security prison in Pretoria, the son, now a young adult, learns that his father is a prisoner there and is soon to be put on death row. This is a story of tragedy, turmoil, redemption and the power of love and relationships. I didn't realise I was holding my breath until the film ended - an incredibly powerful production that is not to be missed.

Mrs Mandela

This is a stunning biopic on the life of the stalwart and anti-apartheid veteran, Winnie Madikizela Mandela. It focuses on the courtship and eventual marriage between her and Nelson Mandela - a part of the story which admittedly has become rather sidelined in the greater story that was the couple's contribution to the liberation of black South Africans from apartheid. It explores, though not in depth, the controversies that plagued Winnie during her years in the Struggle as well as what her relationship with Nelson Mandela looked like following his release from prison in the 90s. A production guaranteed to be worth your while.


Afrikaans for 'heartfelt', this movie tells the remarkable story of how Chris Barnard performed the first heart transplant ever, right here on home soil. It is an absolutely goose-bump inducing film set against the backdrop of a difficult time in South African history - apartheid. While it doesn't really highlight the crucial role of Barnard's assistant, Hamilton Naki, it does a pretty good job of bringing to the fore what has since been dubbed as 'history made in a heartbeat' within its short 70-minute runtime. Give it a watch.

Browse the full Showmax catalogue here.

There's a 14-day free trial for new users and DStv Premium subscribers get Showmax at no cost and DStv Compact and Compact Plus get Showmax for R49. Sign up at Showmax.com


6 Samples From 'Éthiopiques' in Hip-Hop

A brief history of Ethio-jazz cultural exchange featuring songs by Nas & Damian Marley, K'naan, Madlib and more.

This article was originally published on OkayAfrica in March, 2017. We're republishing it here for our Crossroads series.

It's 2000 something. I'm holed up in my bedroom searching for samples to chop up on Fruity Loops. While deep into the free-market jungle of Amazon's suggested music section, I stumble across a compilation of Ethiopian music with faded pictures of nine guys jamming in white suit jackets. I press play on the 30 second sample.

My mind races with the opportunities these breakbeats offered a budding beat maker. Catchy organs, swinging horns, funky guitar riffs, soulful melodies and grainy and pained vocalists swoon over love lost and gained. Sung in my mother tongue—Amharic—this was a far cry from the corny synthesizer music of the 1990s that my parents played on Saturday mornings. I could actually sample this shit.

The next day, I burn a CD and pop it into my dad's car. His eyes light up when the first notes ooze out of the speakers. “Where did you get this?" He asks puzzlingly. “The internet," I respond smiling.

In the 1970s my dad was one of thousands of high school students in Addis Ababa protesting the monarchy. The protests eventually created instability which lead to a coup d'état. The monarchy was overthrown and a Marxist styled military junta composed of low ranking officers called the Derg came to power. The new regime subsequently banned music they deemed to be counter revolutionary. When the Derg came into power, Amha Eshete, a pioneering record producer and founder of Ahma Records, fled to the US and the master recordings of his label's tracks somehow ended up in a warehouse in Greece.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox


How Nigerian Streetwear Brand, Daltimore, is Rising To Celebrity Status

We spoke with founder and creative director David Omigie about expression through clothing and that #BBNaija pic.