South African Story: Ten Movies That Tell Most Of It

The South African story is a mixture of so many things. These include stories about the earliest times of the country, the funny side of the country, apartheid, post-apartheid, crime, and many other things.

Movies in South Africa, as it is in every other place, serves to imitate life. If not the life that is, then the life that was, or could have been.

It is the same with these South African movies which have brought to the world the part of the country that probably was heard of before, or never.

Movies That Tell The South African Story

Shaka Zulu

Shaka Zulu

Although this began as a mini-series, the movie ended up telling one of the most told stories among the Zulus. It is the story of the rise of Shaka Zulu, who is still regarded as one of the most brutal and legendary leaders of the Zulu Kingdom, and in fact, the whole of Africa.

It was set in the 19th century at the time when the British were beginning to make their way into the African continent. The movie featured Henry Cele who played the part of Shaka.

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

You won’t need a long walk to find that the Mandela’s Long Walk To Freedom tells an important side of the South African Story. What makes this movie even more significant is that it was based on Mandela’s autobiographical work of the same title.

What it means is that it gives us a story from Mandela’s point of view. The movie was released in 2013, summarizing the childhood of Mandela until after his prison life. The movie starred Idris Elba and Naomie Harris.



Released in 1992, this South African movie is one of the most acclaimed movies in the country. Shot in Soweto and Johannesburg, the movie tells part of the Apartheid story of the country, although it centres on the Soweto uprising.

It featured Leleti Khumalo who played the part of Sarafina and Whoopi Goldberg who was her teacher.



This movie was drawn from Athol Fugard’s novel, Tsotsi. It takes to heart the story of how life can easily change in South Africa, as well as the crime that abounds herein.

It is the story of a young man named Tsotsi who leaves his troubled home and ends up in crime. He hijacks a car and finds a baby in it. The movie which continues with the dilemma of Tsotsi, had Presley Chweneyagae playing the part of the main character.

After its release in 2005, this movie was acclaimed by many as it went on to win an Oscars in the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year category and was nominated for the Golden Globes. It also had many other nominations and awards in its pockets.

Cry, the Beloved Country

Cry The Beloved Country

This movie was released in 1995, telling the story of a meeting between the two races that have opposed each other for so long in South Africa, only to conclude on their singular humanity.

It tells the story of Father Stephen Kumalo, a black man who had gone to the Johannesburg in search of his son, and James Jarvis, a White, who has also embarked on the same journey. Kumalo was to find out his son who had turned a thief had killed Jarvis’ son.

The movie starred James Earl Jones (Stephen Kumalo) and Richard Harris (James Jarvis) and was based on Cry, the Beloved Country; a 1948 novel by Alan Paton.

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This movie is another which was drawn from the historical life of Nelson Mandela. The thing with Mandela is that he is as a person, a single Story of South Africa. On this side of the story, the movie captured his time as the first black president of South Africa.

Starring Morgan Freeman, the movie centres on the efforts of Nelson Mandela to unite a country which was racially torn apart following the brutal apartheid and his influence on the Rugby World cup hosted and won by the country in 1995.

See Also: 10+ Inspirational Nelson Mandela Quotes on Education, Love, Leadership, Life

The movie was drawn from John Carlin’s Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation.

Life, Above All

Life, Above All

Life, Above All, has tried to break into contemporary South Africa with its struggles as well as the problem with denial of HIV/AIDS. The movie tells of a 12-year-old girl who assumes responsibilities that are way above her after her baby sister dies and her mother battles a disease which was rumoured to be AIDS.

The emotional movie touches on the rejection people with the disease or rumoured disease suffer and the battle fought by a young girl to keep things together.

It was featured by Khomotso Manyaka who played the part of Chanda, the 12-year-old.

A World Apart

A World Apart

From another side of the story, this is an Anti-Apartheid movie which saw the life of a 13-year-old girl changing after her father was sent on exile for his anti-apartheid stance and her mother was detained.

The 13-year-old white girl found herself rejected by the whites who saw her parents as betrayers. This led her into forming a relationship with blacks.

It is a movie that went as a tribute to one hero of the Anti-apartheid struggle who was later assassinated, Ruth First.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

The Gods Must Be Crazy

If you are wondering how this movie tells the South African Story, then I am sorry that you missed the joke. This 1980 movie has actually told the comedy side of South Africa.

For most of us lucky enough to watch this movie, we have seen a side of the country which has always hidden behind so many sad things. The movie tells the story of contact between blacks and whites, as well as an adventure which started with a bottle thrown from an aeroplane.

After many years, this movie still remains one of the most refreshing comedy movies in Africa and you mustn’t be crazy to watch it more times than you can count.

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Cry Freedom

Cry Freedom

Although there are many questions about the objectivity of this movie, it has still managed to tell some part of the South African story.

The movie tells the story of the apartheid infested South Africa of the late 1970s, as well as the story of Steve Biko and his friendship with Donald Woods, who was a White editor of the East London Daily Dispatch in South Africa. Also capturing the death of Biko in the hands of the police, the movie also told the story of Woods who left the country and continued championing the message of Biko.

The movie featured Denzel Washington who played the part of Biko and Kevin Kline who played the part of Woods.

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Tim van der Walt
Tim van der Walt
Tim is another of our talented writers, the one who plays music on replay, drinks more coffee than beer, plays video games, and reads poetry. In between, Tim reviews products, write about computers, games, and talk tech and arts. If there is a WIII, he thinks it could be caused by bad writing.
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