South African Indian-origin filmmaker Anant Singh’s ‘Sarafina!’ selected for Cannes again three decades later

Late president Nelson Mandela had called Anant Singh “a producer I respect very much…a man of tremendous ability” when he granted him the film rights to his autobiograph

May 14, 2023 12:48 pm | Updated May 16, 2023 06:15 pm IST - Johannesburg

Anant Singh

Anant Singh | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

South African Indian-origin filmmaker-producer Anant Singh’s Sarafina!, a classic film about the role of young women in the country’s freedom struggle has been selected for the Cannes Film Festival again 30 years after it first premiered there to a 20-minute standing ovation. The film was directed by Darrell Roodt, and produced by Anant Singh.

This time Sarafina! has been selected for the Cannes Classic section of the prestigious cinema event. This section acknowledges films which are deemed to be works of quality that have contributed to the evolution of motion picture arts and encouraged the development of the film industry throughout the world.

It is also the first time that any South African film features for a second time at Cannes. A digitally remastered Producer’s Cut with footage never-seen-before will be screened in partnership with IMAX.

Academy Award winner Whoopi Goldberg joined renowned South African actors Leleti Khumalo; Miriam Makeba; Mbongeni Ngema; John Kani and Somizi Mhlongo in the movie.

“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,” commented Whoopi Goldberg on the relevance of Sarafina! in today’s world.

“Sarafina! is an iconic South African film which has been embraced by a multi-generational audience over the years. The film shows the strength of our young women who made their mark in South Africa’s journey to freedom. It is a vibrant combination of drama, music and dance. Sarafina! is entertaining and remains as relevant today as it was thirty years ago,” Singh said.

“It is exciting to be returning to the Cannes Film Festival with Sarafina! after 30 years. Being selected for Cannes Classics is a rare and coveted recognition. The World Premiere in 1992 sparked a renaissance of the South African film industry. Sarafina!’s return to Cannes celebrates the timelessness of our stories and I hope this will motivate a new generation of filmmakers,” the internationally-acclaimed movie magnate added.

Singh has produced more than 80 films since 1984, most of which had highly-lauded anti-apartheid themes.

The late president Nelson Mandela had called him “a producer I respect very much…a man of tremendous ability” when he granted Singh the film rights to his autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom.

The film version, titled Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, was directed by Justin Chadwick and starred Idris Elba as Mandela and Naomie Harris as his wife Winnie. The film received wide critical acclaim internationally and received prestigious award recognitions, including Academy Award and BAFTA nominations and a Golden Globe Award in 2014.

Another of Singh’s films, Yesterday, secured him South Africa’s first Academy Award Nomination in the Best Foreign Language Picture category in 2005, the Peabody Award and an Emmy Nomination in 2006 in the “Outstanding Made For Television Movie” category. The film highlighted the challenges which single rural Black women with HIV in South Africa face daily.

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