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The following written prologue appears in opening credits: “In 1976, the South African Government declared a State of Emergency. For the next thirteen years, schoolchildren adopted a campaign of resistance. Over 750 were killed, over 10,000 arrested, many more tortured and assaulted. This film is dedicated to them.” The film concludes with the statement: “On February 11th 1990, Nelson Mandela was released. On June 17th 1991, South Africa’s Apartheid laws were repealed. The struggle continues…FREEDOM IS COMING!”
       Sarafina! was adapted from Mbongeni Ngema’s musical play about the 1976 Morris Isaacson Junior High School revolt in Soweto, South Africa. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the play was originally produced at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa, in Jun, 1987, and ran for ten weeks. At the heart of the play was South Africa’s mbaqanga music, a “pounding, hypnotic blend of indigenous African sounds with strains resembling blues and gospel.” Gregory Mosher, artistic director of Lincoln Center in New York City, invited Ngema to take the production to the U.S. for a limited engagement at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, and end credits acknowledge that in the U.S. the play was, “Originally produced by Lincoln Center Theatre, New York City.” It opened 3 Jan 1988 to rave reviews, leading to the show being moved to Broadway’s Cort Theatre, on 28 Jan 1988, and closed 2 Jul 1989 after 597 performances. The musical received five Tony Award nominations which included Best Musical.
       With the show’s success, Ngema decided to adapt it as a movie. He collaborated with screenwriter William Nicholson and soon came to the notice of producer Anant ... More Less

The following written prologue appears in opening credits: “In 1976, the South African Government declared a State of Emergency. For the next thirteen years, schoolchildren adopted a campaign of resistance. Over 750 were killed, over 10,000 arrested, many more tortured and assaulted. This film is dedicated to them.” The film concludes with the statement: “On February 11th 1990, Nelson Mandela was released. On June 17th 1991, South Africa’s Apartheid laws were repealed. The struggle continues…FREEDOM IS COMING!”
       Sarafina! was adapted from Mbongeni Ngema’s musical play about the 1976 Morris Isaacson Junior High School revolt in Soweto, South Africa. According to production notes in AMPAS library files, the play was originally produced at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa, in Jun, 1987, and ran for ten weeks. At the heart of the play was South Africa’s mbaqanga music, a “pounding, hypnotic blend of indigenous African sounds with strains resembling blues and gospel.” Gregory Mosher, artistic director of Lincoln Center in New York City, invited Ngema to take the production to the U.S. for a limited engagement at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, and end credits acknowledge that in the U.S. the play was, “Originally produced by Lincoln Center Theatre, New York City.” It opened 3 Jan 1988 to rave reviews, leading to the show being moved to Broadway’s Cort Theatre, on 28 Jan 1988, and closed 2 Jul 1989 after 597 performances. The musical received five Tony Award nominations which included Best Musical.
       With the show’s success, Ngema decided to adapt it as a movie. He collaborated with screenwriter William Nicholson and soon came to the notice of producer Anant Singh, who asked to join the project.
       The part of “Sarafina” was written for actress Leleti Khumalo, who reprised the role for the movie. Actor Dumisani Diamini, who played “Crocodile,” also reprised his Broadway role.
       According to a 1 May 1992 Screen International news item, it took producer David Thompson five years to raise the $5 million needed to finance for the film. The money came from the British Broadcast System (BBC) and Les Films Ariane.
       A 1 Nov 1991 Screen International news brief reported that principal photography was scheduled to begin that day in South Africa. A 3 Mar 1992 HR announced shooting was completed in late Feb 1992.
       The production was personally endorsed by African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela.
       A 19 Oct 1992 Var reported that Sarafina! broke the South African box-office record when it was released over the 9 Oct – 11 Oct 1992 weekend. It played in thirty-five cinemas and earned $140,000.
       A 3 Aug 1992 Var brief announced that Buena Vista Pictures bought the North American distribution rights to Sarafina! for $7 million.
       A 1 Oct 1992 HR article reported the city of Dallas, TX, filed a lawsuit against Buena Vista on 27 Sep 1992, to force the company to display the words “Not suitable for Young People.” Dallas’s Motion Picture Classification Board stated that the film depicted violence without consequences. However, Buena Vista contested the suit, stating it violated the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by denying the right of free speech.
       The following written statements appear in end credits: “The producers gratefully acknowledge the support of the people of Soweto, especially the staff and students of the Morris Isaacson School”; “Special Thanks: Keith Addis, African National Congress, AGFA, Johanna Baldwin, Coolray Sunglasses, Creative Artists Agency, Antoine De Clermont-Tonnerre, Bernard Gersten, Institute of Black Research, Felicty Irlam, Liberation Movements in S.A., Modison’s Photographic, Christopher Pearce, Andre Perreault, Jonathan Procter, Voza Rivers, Richard Soames, Southern Sun Hotels, Wally Serote, Nick Wechsler, Alan Grodin, Quincy Jones.” More Less

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATIONS
SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Hollywood Reporter
3 Mar 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1992
p. 7, 20.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Oct 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
18 Sep 1992
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
19 Sep 1992.
---
New York Times
18 Sep 1992
p. 16.
Screen International
1 Nov 1991.
---
Screen International
1 May 1992.
---
Variety
18 May 1992
p. 47.
Variety
19 Oct 1992.
---
Variety
3 Aug 1992.
---
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
and introducing
as Sarafina
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Hollywood Pictures and Miramax Films present
An Anant Singh Production
A Distant Horizon and Ideal Films Presentation
In association with Videovision Enterprises, Les Films Ariane, Vanguard Films and the BBC
A Darrell James Roodt Film
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Co-second asst dir
PRODUCERS
Prod for BBC
Line prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
Exec prod
WRITERS
Based on the play "Sarafina" by
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Focus puller
Clipper loader
Stills photog
Stills asst
Gaffer
Best boy
Spark
Gennie op
Key grip
Dolly grip
Grips best boy
Steadicam op
2d unit cam
2d unit cam
2d unit focus puller
2d unit clapper loader
Video unit
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
End set art dir
Graphics des
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
Post prod supv, London
1st asst ed
2d asst ed
Asst ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dresser
Asst set dresser
Stand-by set dresser
Prop master
Standby props
Set const
Set const
Set const
Const asst
Set painter
Armourer
COSTUMES
1st ward asst
Ward asst
Ward asst
MUSIC
Mus and lyrics by
Addl songs by
Mus score comp by
Mus ed
Addl prod and mixing by
Mix eng
Songs performed by
Songs prod and arr by
Songs eng by
Asst mus arranger
SOUND
Sd mixer
Boom swinger
Supv sd ed
Dail ed
ADR ed
Foley ed
Asst sd ed
Asst sd ed
Post prod asst
Foley artist
Foley artist
Foley artist
Sd transfer
Sd transfer
Sd transfer
Re-rec mixer
ADR rec
ADR rec
Foley rec
Dolby Stereo consultant
LA re-rec mixer
LA re-rec mixer
LA re-rec mixer
LA re-rec at
LA asst ed
Post prod facilities
Post prod facilities
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff co-ord
MAKEUP
Chief make-up & hair
1st make-up & Hair
Hair asst
Make-up asst
Make-up asst
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod coord
Unit and transport mgr
Loc supv
Loc mgr
Dial coach
Action vehicles
Action vehicle driver
Action vehicle driver
Animals supplied by
"Prince"
Post prod co-ord, New York
Post prod co-ord, New York
Head of security
Security capt
Security driver
Security
Security
Security
Security
Security
Security
Security
Security
Security
Security
Security
Security consultant
Unit and transportation asst
Unit asst
Unit asst
Cam driver
Grips driver
Props driver
Ward driver
Artist driver
Artist driver
Driver for Leleti Khumalo
Driver for Whoopi Goldberg
Driver for Michael peters
Unit driver
Paramedic
Company mgr, Committed Artists
Asst company mgr, Committed Artists
Admin, Committed Artists
Sec, Committed Artists
Personal asst to Mr. Ngema, Committed Artists
School tutor, Committed Artists
School tutor, Committed Artists
Voice tutor, Committed Artists
Maintence, Committed Artists
Cook, Committed Artists
Cleaner, Committed Artists
Cleaner, Committed Artists
Security, Committed Artists
Security, Committed Artists
Insurance
Prod services by
Prod services by
Completion bond
Unit pub and asst to Anant Singh
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Auditor
Auditor
Prod secy
Asst to prod
Asst to prod
Asst to prod
Asst to prod
Asst to prod
Asst to prod
Prod driver
Legal services
Accounting services
Medical consultant
Catering by
Catering by, A. M. Foods
Crowd catering
Helicopter pilot
Equip supplied by
STAND INS
Stunt coord
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stuntman
Stand-in for Ms. Goldberg
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the play Sarafina!, , by Mbongeni Ngema (New York, 28 Jan 1988).
SONGS
"Sarafina," composed by Hugh Masekela, published by Kalahari Music (Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., Administrator)
"The Lord's Prayer," arranged by Mbongeni Ngema, published by Gallo Music Publishers
"Nkonyane Kandaba," composed by Mbongeni Ngema, published by Ngema's Magic Train
+
SONGS
"Sarafina," composed by Hugh Masekela, published by Kalahari Music (Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., Administrator)
"The Lord's Prayer," arranged by Mbongeni Ngema, published by Gallo Music Publishers
"Nkonyane Kandaba," composed by Mbongeni Ngema, published by Ngema's Magic Train
"Bring Back Nelson Mandela," composed by Hugh Masekela, published by Kalahari Music (Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., Administrator)
"Freedon Is Coming Tomorrow," composed by Mbongeni Ngema, published by Gallo Music Publishers
"Give Us Power," composed by Mbongeni Ngema, published by Gallo Music Publishers
"Sechara," composed by Hugh Masekela, published by Kalahari Music (Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp., Administrator)
"Sabela," composed by Mbongeni Ngema, published by Ngema's Magic Train
"Safa Saphel' Isizwe," composed by Mbongeni Mgema, published by Gallo Music Publishers
"Thank You Mama," composed by Mbongeni Ngema, published by Ngema's Magic Train
"Vuma Dloze Lami," composed by Mbongene Ngema, published by Ngema's Magic Train
"Lizobuya," composed by Mbongeni Ngema, published by Ngema's Magic Train. "One More Time, written by Dean Pitchford and Tom Snow, used by permission of Triple Star Music Inc., EMI Intertrax Music, Inc., Snow Music and Pitchford Music, performed by James Ingram, courtesy of Warner Bros. Records Inc., produced by Michael Omartian.
+
PERFORMER
DETAILS
Release Date:
18 September 1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 18 September 1992
New York opening: week of 18 September 1992
Production Date:
1 November 1991 -- February 1992
Copyright Claimant:
Ideal Films, Pty, Ltd.
Copyright Date:
22 April 1992
Copyright Number:
PAu1616960
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby StereoArriflex® in selected theatres
Color
Produced and distributed on Eastman Film
Lenses
Arriflex® cameras and lenses
Prints
Prints by Technicolor®
Duration(in mins):
104
Length(in feet):
10,476
MPAA Rating:
PG-13
Countries:
South Africa, France, United Kingdom, United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32042
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1976, Sarafina, a South African teenager living in the township of Soweto, wakes up and wishes a picture of Nelson Mandela a good morning. As she prepares for school, she imagines she is a movie star, and that all her fellow students dance while singing her praises. Her fantasy is ruined when a convoy of armored cars drives through the streets, scattering her fans. Sarafina is accosted by a much older, black constable, Sabela, who informs her that rebels burnt down her school during the night. He asks to see her underwear, but she ignores him. Sarafina arrives to find the school buildings smoldering. The principal declares their only hope for a peaceful future is through education. He announces that Mary Masembuko, a history teacher, needs volunteers for the end-of-term musical, and asks her to lead a morning prayer. Mary leads the students in a musical version of “The Lord’s Prayer.” When white soldiers arrive at the school to root out seditious students, Lieutenant Bloem overhears Mary teaching an unauthorized history of the European settlement of South Africa. At recess, Sarafina spots “Crocodile,” a charismatic youth who preaches revolution against the apartheid government. She admits she loves everything about Crocodile, except his propensity for burning down schools. Gathering the children, Mary asks for ideas for the school musical. Sarafina suggests they create a play where their political hero, Nelson Mandela, is released from prison. Crocodile announces he should play Mandela, but Sarafina insists she will. Students break into a song about freedom, but Mary informs Sarafina it is too dangerous to put on a show in which Mandela is freed. Later, Crocodile and his gang attempt to create ... +


In 1976, Sarafina, a South African teenager living in the township of Soweto, wakes up and wishes a picture of Nelson Mandela a good morning. As she prepares for school, she imagines she is a movie star, and that all her fellow students dance while singing her praises. Her fantasy is ruined when a convoy of armored cars drives through the streets, scattering her fans. Sarafina is accosted by a much older, black constable, Sabela, who informs her that rebels burnt down her school during the night. He asks to see her underwear, but she ignores him. Sarafina arrives to find the school buildings smoldering. The principal declares their only hope for a peaceful future is through education. He announces that Mary Masembuko, a history teacher, needs volunteers for the end-of-term musical, and asks her to lead a morning prayer. Mary leads the students in a musical version of “The Lord’s Prayer.” When white soldiers arrive at the school to root out seditious students, Lieutenant Bloem overhears Mary teaching an unauthorized history of the European settlement of South Africa. At recess, Sarafina spots “Crocodile,” a charismatic youth who preaches revolution against the apartheid government. She admits she loves everything about Crocodile, except his propensity for burning down schools. Gathering the children, Mary asks for ideas for the school musical. Sarafina suggests they create a play where their political hero, Nelson Mandela, is released from prison. Crocodile announces he should play Mandela, but Sarafina insists she will. Students break into a song about freedom, but Mary informs Sarafina it is too dangerous to put on a show in which Mandela is freed. Later, Crocodile and his gang attempt to create a boycott against the Boers—white South Africans of Dutch descent—but Sarafina’s grandmother refuses to participate. As the boys destroy her groceries, police arrive and beat protestors and shoppers alike. Sabela captures Crocodile and kicks him, but the boy escapes into the hills. Later, Sarafina imagines talking to Mandela about her mother being a servant for a white family. Sarafina is angry that while her mother takes care of white children, her own rarely see her. When Sarafina voices her hatred of the Boers, her mother warns her that seditious talk could get her killed. Sarafina retorts she would rather be dead than a servant like her mother. Sarafina arrives home to find an injured Crocodile. As she cleans his wounds, Crocodile voices his desire to kill Sabela, but Sarafina promises the constable will be punished when Nelson Mandela returns. When Sarafina visits Mary, the woman is talking to a stranger and asks her to wait inside her house. Sarafina finds an assault rifle, and Mary is forced to reveal that her husband, Joe, is a freedom fighter. Although Mary deplores violence, she desires freedom for her people. She fights by speaking to people about the injustice of apartheid, and suggests Sarafina do the same. The next day, Lt. Bloem accuses Mary of teaching communism. She denies his claim, but admits she does not keep to the government-approved syllabus. When Lt. Bloem threatens her arrest, Mary returns to the classroom and informs her students that she does not teach communism, but history. She explains that history teaches people to be proud of what they have done, and aware of their mistakes, so they can avoid them in the future. Later that week, police abduct boys from their homes late at night and beat them. On Sunday, Sarafina returns from church to see her classmate, “Guitar,” talking with Constable Sabela, and realizes the boy is an informant. Sarafina and her classmates confront Guitar in front of his shack, demanding to know why he became a traitor. Guitar reveals that Sabela threatened his crippled father, and Sarafina forgives him. The next day, as Lt. Bloem arrests Mary, she hints to Sarafina to get rid of her assault rifle. After Sarafina hides the weapon, she returns to school and finds Mary has been replaced by a male teacher. He warns the students not to inquire about Mary’s whereabouts. Among his history lessons is that Russians defeated Napoleon’s invading army by burning down their own houses and leaving the French to freeze to death. Sarafina declares this is what they must do, and the students take up a rallying cry of “Burn!” Soldiers respond to the riot, rush into the school, and shoot scores of children. As Sarafina escapes, she sees Crocodile gunned down. The next day, tens of thousands of black South Africans march in protest. At the funeral, as students sing, “Freedom Is Coming Tomorrow,” soldiers disperse the crowd with tear gas. For four days, demonstrators fight with stones and Molotov cocktails. The army responds with machine guns and helicopters. Inspired by their lessons on the Napoleonic wars, the children set fires, burning down schools, stores, and public buildings. Sabela finds Guitar, demands he give the names of the ringleaders, and shoots him when the boy refuses. However, Guitar survives and tells his tale to Sarafina. That night, she leads a group of boys to torch Sabela’s home. When he runs, the crowd beats him with clubs and douses him with gasoline. Sabela beseeches Sarafina for help, but she only watches as he is set ablaze. The next day, the army sweeps through Soweto and arrests all school-aged children, including Sarafina. She is taken to a detention camp for interrogation. Told that Mary committed suicide, Sarafina accuses the police of murdering her. Thrown into prison, Sarafina talks to an imaginary Mandela, confessing that she wanted to kill Sabela until she saw his eyes. She confesses being filled with hate, but not enough that she is free of guilt over Sabela’s death. She realizes Mandela cannot hear her, and she is alone. The children are tortured and beaten. One girl is left for days in a room full of dead classmates. Sarafina is subjected to electric shocks. Weeks later, police release her. Sarafina determinates that she will no longer allow herself to be consumed by hatred. Visiting her mother in the white district, she finds the Boer family throwing a birthday party, ignorant of the battle in Soweto. Sarafina apologizes to her mother for demeaning her. She realizes now that she is a hero, willing to suffer daily humiliation to provide for her family. At home, Sarafina throws Mary’s assault rifle into a field, vowing to fight, but not kill. She remembers Mary telling her to think beyond freedom, to imagine what type of world she wants. Sarafina returns to the remains of her school and finds Guitar. They sing the song she wrote, imaging Nelson Mandela’s return. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.