South Africa is known for its wide breadth of talent, with the likes of Black Coffee and Ladysmith Black Mambazo flying the country’s flag high on the international stage, to some of the world’s most established designers like David Tlale and Gavin Rajah spreading the African influence around the world through their garments.

However, South Africa is also known for being a prime shooting location for both local and international movies thanks to its wide variety of landscapes.

We have decided to pay tribute to some of those movies by compiling a list of the top five South African-made movies throughout the years.

  1. Tsotsi (2005)

Tsotsi was released back in 2005 and instantly became one of the most successful movies to come out of South Africa, winning the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.

The movie follows the life of a small-time criminal named Tsotsi, played by Presley Chweneyagae, who hijacks a car after a series of violent gang attacks. However, whilst driving, Tsotsi realises that there is a baby on the back seat of the car. He brings the baby to his house in the slum. The next six days bring about a change in him that couldn’t be foreseen.

2. Invictus (2009)

Invictus is another South African classic that tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, joined forces with the Captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to help unite their country during apartheid.

Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa’s rugby team as they make their run to the 1995 Rugby World Cup Championship match. Both Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon were Oscar-nominated for their performance in the film.

3. Mr. Bones (2001)

It is impossible to make a list of the best South African movies without mentioning the 2001 classic, Mr Bones, directed by Gray Hofmeyr and starring SA’s favourite prankster Leon Schuster.

The plot behind the movie is not as complex as Invictus or Tsotsi, but it still loved just as much by viewers around the world. A medicine man, played by Schuster himself, is tasked with finding the long-lost son of his tribal king and brings back an American golfer during a golfing tournament. As you would expect with a Schuster movie, high jinx and slapstick humour occurs throughout the film, and let’s not forget the iconic line, “I told you to go down, but you did not listen”.

4- District 9 (2009)

More often than not, when an alien invasion is depicted in a movie, they usually descend over cities like Las Angeles, New York, or DC, for example. District 9 takes the idea of an alien invasion and brings it much closer to home. In the movie, a massive spaceship bearing a bedraggled alien population, nicknamed “The Prawns,” appeared over Johannesburg in 1982. However, instead of simply taking over the Earth, as we’ve seen in countless other invasion movies, the aliens are depicted as helpless.

The refugee camp where the aliens were located has deteriorated into a militarized ghetto called District 9, where they are confined and exploited in squalor. The movie follows the life of Wikus Van De Merwe, played by Sharlto Copley, who slowly turns into one of the things he hates most, a ‘Prawn’ from the District 9 refugee camp. While the movie makes for a great Sci-fi film, it also has meaningful undertones of the racial segregation still felt in South Africa today.

5- Skin (2008)

Skin is based on the true story of a coloured child named Sophie Okonedo, played by Sandra Laing, who was born to two white Afrikaner parents in South Africa during the apartheid era. Her parents, Abraham and Sannie, are white Afrikaners, unaware of their black ancestry. Sandra is sent to a boarding school in the neighbouring town of Piet Retief, where her (white) brother Leon is also studying, but parents and teachers complain that she doesn’t belong.

She is examined by State officials, reclassified as Coloured, and expelled from the school. Sandras parents are shocked, but Abraham fights through the courts to have the classification reversed. The story is a true representation of what life was like for coloured and back people back in the apartheid era. Sophie Okonedo was nominated for best actress at the Black Reel Awards in 2010, while director Anthony Fabian won the best director at the Belize International Film Festival.

Let us know if we missed any South African classic films!

Picture: Twitter/@TherealMJNcube

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