In January next year Film Forum will screen the restored film classic “Come Back, Africa” (1959) by the late American director, Lionel Rogosin. The screening will coincide with the 100th anniversary of South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC. The film’s title is from an ANC slogan (“Mayibuye iAfrika!”). In case you need reminding, this film is a standard bearer of (what passes for) modern South African cinema (only two other films get that nod from me: “Mapantsula” and “Hijack Stories”).
“Come Back, Africa,” shot in black and white and with a documentary feel, is the story of the daily grind and humiliations endured by a black migrant worker (on the mines and as a garden boy to a white family) in Johannesburg. More broadly, it was the first film that exposed the daily workings of Apartheid. It would also introduce the world to postwar black urban culture South Africa, and, specifically, singer Miriam Makeba. Largely improvised and in part co-written by the then 36-year old Rogosin (in the country on a tourist visa) with a group of black South African intellectuals and filmed clandestinely over a three week period, the film was immediately banned by the South African dictatorship. Here’s the trailer: