Based on the oppression of South Africa's apartheid, this is the story of Sarafina (Leleti Khumalo) whose teacher (Whoopi Goldberg) shows her how to escape bigotry through music. Unusual rendition of the musical stage play.
A young Sarafina, lives with her aunt and uncle in Soweto where she attends school while her mother works as a maid in a white household in Johannesburg. The two rarely see each other.
Sarafina battles her feelings of abandonment and disappointment with passionate hero-worship of both the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and her rebellious history teacher, Mary Masombuka. Mary encourages the children to be proud of who they are, and to be aware of the political forces that rule their lives. She even helps the pupils put on a play expressing their desire for the eventual release of Mandela.
Sarafina's classmates get involved in a protest that ends in an arson attack, resulting in the police cracking down hard on the students. As a result, the children boycott white-owned stores, and tensions begin to rise.
Even as Mary reassures Sarafina that she dreams of a free and peaceful South Africa, violence erupts throughout the township. A riot ensues when the police open fire at the school children. Sarafina faces years of imprisonment and torture for her role in the protest.
Eventually, she is released and reunited with her mother. Finally together, the two women find mutual respect for the very different ways they both struggle against the oppressive forces dominating their lives.
Starring: Leleti Khumalo, Whoopi Goldberg, Miriam Makeba, John Kani, Dumisani Dlamini, Sipho Kunene, Tertius Meintjes, Mbongeni Ngema, Robert Whitehead, Somizi Mhlongo
Leleti Khumalo - Sarafina
Whoopi Goldberg - Mary Masombuka
Mbongeni Ngema - Sabela
Darrell James Roodt - Director
William Nicholson - Screenwriter
Michael Peters - Choreographer
Anant Singh - Producer
a Distant Horizon and Ideal Films production
in association with
Videovision Entertainment, Les Films Ariane and the BBC
A Darrell James Roodt Film
Based on the play SARAFINA! by
Music and Lyrics by
Additional Songs by
Music Score Composed by
Michael Peters and Mbongeni Ngema
Peter Hollywood and Sarah Thomas
Director of Photography
William Nicholson and Mbongeni Ngema
Producer for the BBC
Darrell James Roodt
"I think that the film is a very fair reflection of the evils of apartheid….I was really moved …"
"Enjoyed the film very much….Wonderful film"
"Wonderful…it could have been my life story"
"I am lost for words. It was just incredible."
"The first home-grown African film that will knock the world on its you-know-what"
"Given the censorship that they have had over time and the absolute refusal to let the word get out anywhere of what was going on or what it was like here (South Africa) and now people are increasingly finding out. Certainly this movie will help."
David Dinkins (former mayor of New York)
Available on DVD