The 44th Durban International Film Festival, which took place in June 2023, hosted the nationwide premiere of the restored 4K version of Mapantsula on Sunday, 23rd July, at Suncoast CineCentre and selected Ster-Kinekor cinemas in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Mapantsula is widely considered the first true anti-Apartheid film, and upon its premiere at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival, it opened to massive critical acclaim and praise for its artistic value and its efforts in raising awareness of the South African struggle. Mapantsula had a massive impact on political cinema, pop culture, bringing African cinema to the forefront of industry conversations. However, in its original form, it was banned from release in South Africa, and as a result, the main audience the film was made for, the majority, were never able to watch it.
Andrea Voges, Durban Film Festival manager, 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 keep telling stories that matter.”
Director Oliver Schmitz says, “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 honour those who are no longer here but who will never be forgotten. First and foremost, we honour Thomas Matsobane Mogotlane, Dolly Rathebe, Lloyd Lelosa, Nana Coyote Motijoane, and Mesh Mapetla. We are proud to have worked together, and we are proud of our achievement.”
The film follows the story of Panic, a gangster who only looks out for himself until he is confronted with systematic abuse and has to decide whether or not to stand up against it and fight the system.
The screenings have been made possible through an innovative and radical distribution partnership between the London-based distributor/production company, WHAT THE HERO WANTS (WTHW), and the Durban International Film Festival, in addition to the participating theatre chains Ster Kinekor and CineCentre. The deal was brokered by the Festival Manager, Andrea Voges, and What The Hero Wants’ Co-CEO, Aaryan K. Trivedi.