NEW 35mm Restoration! ► “A heroic film” (Martin Scorsese), Lionel Rogosin’s poignant, poetic account of life in 1959 Johannesburg was one of cinema’s first exposés of the realities of apartheid. Rogosin, one of American independent cinema’s pioneers, had a fierce commitment to social justice and a hybrid, neorealist-inspired style combining documentary and drama. His first feature, 1956’s On the Bowery (screened, in a new restoration, at Pacific Cinémathèque last year) was a powerful chronicle of alcoholism and poverty in Lower Manhattan. Come Back, Africa, his second feature, was made clandestinely; the authorities were told Rogosin was making a travelogue about South African music. Music does figure very prominently, but this was no travelogue: the film details a litany of restrictive pass laws, menial jobs, segregated communities, separated families, and offhand racist cruelty as it tells the affecting story of Zacharia, a Zulu man who has arrived in Johannesburg in search of work. The cast is made up of non-professionals; many of them — including the whites playing disagreeable white characters — were anti-apartheid activists. Singer Miriam Makeba is among the performers; her appearance here helped launch her storied international career. Much of the movie was shot in the township of Sophiatown, a vibrant centre of black cultural and intellectual life that was soon to be razed for a whites-only suburb. B&W, 35mm in English and Afrikaans with English subtitles. 95 mins.
"Rogosin shows a vital culture on the brink, at the moment when it was calcifying into the form it would hold for more than three decades to come... His films are to be treasured for imprinting vanished worlds in celluloid..."Village Voice | full review
"Presents this time and place in all its vibrancy and sorrow through atmospheric scenes of real daily life and labor... Despair and long-suppressed anger not extinguished, but made bearable by song."Slant Magazine | full review
“Poetic and electrifying ...A movie whose very existence seems a miracle.”New York Magazine | full review