Come Back, Africa is filled not only with the sounds of Makeba’s mellifluous vocals but also those of the bands of boys in short pants and newsboy caps playing penny-whistles and the street buskers plinking out “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear.” Rogosin’s ruse that he was making a musical turned out to be partly true; yet no audio in Come Back, Africa is as piercing—or unshakable—as the keening heard in the closing minutes.
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"You can feel the faith and energy of the film's argument, the latitude granted the performers... Shooting during the continent's first great wave of postcolonial independence, he [Rogosin] depicts the outlier apartheid system in ways both fiery and subtle—a straightjacket of forcible ignorance, made all the more heartbreaking by the despair it creates in its victims..."
The miracle of Lionel Rogosin's apartheid drama Come Back, Africa isn't that it's a solid, affecting artifact of a cruel society, but that it exists at all.
"Four Stars! Come Back, Africa is a work of amazing grace—and a forgotten treasure." -Sam Adams, Time Out New York
After a recent conversation with Susan Weeks Coulter, chairwoman of the Global Film Initiative, whose Global Lens series is currently in full swing at MoMA before a cross-country tour, my mind—in a humanitarian, can-do state—wandered to recent cinema history. Where has cinema caused change to happen, to move the needle in the name of progress? When was the last time this occurred—not a polite discussion, but real social and political change?
I found myself coming back to these prodding questions upon a recent viewing Lionel Rogosin’s second feature “Come Back, Africa” (1959). The film, which aesthetically works as a blend of pioneer documentarian Robert Flaherty and Italian neorealist Vittorio De Sica, exposes the jaw-dropping racism and social injustice that has victimized black South Africans under the apartheid government since its enactment in 1948....
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