‘Sarafina!’ Cannes do, again!




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● South Africa’s 1992 musical drama Sarafina! will have a historic second premiere today at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in France. The movie depicts a group of teenagers who fight against apartheid during the Soweto uprising. It is based on veteran theatre producer Mbongeni Ngema’s 1987 musical of the same name. Directed by Darrell Roodt with a screenplay written by Ngema and William Nicholson, the movie stars Whoopi Goldberg, Leleti Khumalo, the late Miriam Makeba, John Kani, Mbongeni Ngema and Somizi Mhlongo. The film, which had its world premiere at Cannes 31 years ago, is one of the 2023 Cannes Classics Selection films — movies that have contributed to the evolution of motion picture arts. It will feature as part of a partnership with Imax, which will screen a digitally remastered film. Anant Singh, who produced Sarafina!, this week recalled the emotional premiere three decades ago at the Cannes venue, the Palais des Festivals. “The world premiere in Cannes in 1992 was a highlight, especially with the 20minute standing ovation and a huge crowd cheering us,” he told the Sunday Times. “It was a very proud moment for us, as South Africa was emerging into democracy, which the film celebrated.” Khumalo, who reprised her role from the stage performance in the movie, is excited to relive that moment, this time at the Cannes Buñuel Theatre. “I was very young then and I remember the standing ovation, but I’m hoping this time around to be able to really cherish this incredible moment, make connections, and form partnerships. “This time when I’m on the red carpet I’ll be thinking of some of the cast and crew from the movie who are sadly no longer with us ... but their legacy lives on.” Goldberg will not attend today’s event due to scheduling conflicts. But she said in a comment on the contemporary relevance of Sarafina!: “Keep talking to the kids because they are going to fix it, they are going to make it happen, they are going to make change happen.” Singh added: “It was great working with Whoopi — she was a major star, an Oscar winner who believed in the film and gave her best. She also became a mentor to Leleti and especially the kids, who were completely in awe.” The movie’s huge success had major film studios reaching out, he said. “At one point a Hollywood studio wanted to make the film for a budget 10 times what we were spending, but they proposed that Whitney Houston play Leleti’s role. I thought this was insanity and refused their very lucrative offer. Miriam had just returned from exile and had seen the stage show abroad. When we approached her she immediately said yes.” Singh said the technical reformatting of the film was superb. “It will play in both Imax and 2D theatres with state-of-the-art new quality, which enhances the viewing experience and is hugely impressive.” Khumalo will be wearing a creation from Durban designer Phiwa Goqo on the red carpet. “Sarafina! is an incredible moment for our country and it reaffirms the universal message that whatever struggle you are going through, there is hope,” she said. “The film is going to be re-released in movie theatres across South Africa in a few months, and I can’t wait to see a new generation of young people and their families going to the cinemas. Just about every school in South Africa has shown this movie, so to be able to inspire, reinvigorate and bring hope in a fresh, new format on the big screen is a dream come true.”