Magazine article New Internationalist

Sarafina!

Magazine article New Internationalist

Sarafina!

Article excerpt

The idea of a big - budget musical about apartheid may seem like an absurd joke but Sarafina! is an altogether plausible venture, even though its blend of politics and high - stepping doesn't quite gell. It had its roots in a stage musical by actor/musician/writer Mbongeni Ngema that was massively successful in the US a couple of years ago; and it has its rationale in the tight associations in South Africa between political resistance and music. There's a clash between the township jive dance routines and the hard realism favoured by director Roodt -- he's too much of a documentary film - maker to help the hoofing catch fire -- but there's also a sense of conviction, especially in the acting, that really comes across.

Sarafina! is set in Soweto (where it was shot) at the time of the 1976 state of emergency when schoolchildren were being massacred by troops. Sarafina is the name of a teenage girl, played by Leleti Khumalo, whose dreams of pop stardom have a decidedly political twist -- the pinup she moons over every morning is Nelson Mandela. She dreams of playing him in the school end - of - year production, supervised by Mary Masombuka (Whoopi Goldberg), a teacher determined to give her pupils a sense of identity in the face of daily repression. …

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