In 1969, a small group of South African exiles and British film students formed Morena Films in London to produce films about the apartheid. In 1974 they produced one of the first, and certainly the most influential, films about apartheid. LAST GRAVE AT DIMBAZA—shot clandestinely in South Africa and smuggled out of the country—had an enormous impact on global opinion at a critical moment in the struggle against apartheid, revealing to audiences worldwide the shocking inequalities between whites and blacks in South Africa. It went on to win major awards at many international film festivals. With a newly restored digital master, is now available for the first time on DVD.
This documentary exposé is now a rare, primary visual resource, a portrait of a time and place that was largely unrecorded by photographs or film. It combines scenes of everyday life in South Africa with statements from political leaders that characterize the government's blatantly racist policies.
Filmed throughout South Africa, from Capetown to Johannesburg, as well as in the surrounding black townships and the desolate bantustans, LAST GRAVE AT DIMBAZA visually portrays the stark contrasts between living and working conditions for the majority populace of 18 million blacks and the 4 million whites who rule over them. In addition to revealing the migratory labor system, which separates black families for most of the year, and a repressive passbook policy to control black workers' movements, the film examines the gross inequities in such areas as housing, education, health care, industry, and agriculture.
By combining its clandestinely-photographed scenes of everyday life with relevant statements from National Party leaders such as B.J. Vorster that characterize the government's unabashedly racist policies, LAST GRAVE AT DIMBAZA becomes a stunning indictment of the apartheid system, which had controlled South Africa since 1948. The film's concluding scenes, contrasting increasing labor unrest and strikes amongst black workers and the compulsory training in armaments use for all white South Africans, dramatically foreshadows the conflict that developed during the following two decades, and which culminated in the end of apartheid with the nation's first multiracial elections in 1994.
"Compelling… In this time of ultra-fast-paced information technology and short historical memory, [LAST GRAVE] serves as a necessary reminder of human cruelty and suffering. Its stark visual account and narrative form serve as good teaching tools, illustrating the lessons of the past so that people might apply them to the future."The Journal of Pan African Studies2006 African Studies Association Film Festival
Best Film, 1975 FESPACO African Film Festival
Best Film, 1975 Melbourne International Film Festival
George Sadoul Prize, 1975 Paris Film Festival
International Prize, 1975 Grenoble Film Festival
Peace Prize, 1975 Leipzig Documentary Festival
"Seminal! Powerful!"—Leon van der Merwe, University of Cape Town
"Provides a window to a world one cannot easily forget… provides the viewer with a clear understanding of the life of the average black person in South Africa."—Educational Media Reviews Online
"Continually juxtaposes the two communities of South Africa to ghastly effect, and the cold statistics of its commentary are unbearable."—Time Out
"Explosive! Essential background."—The Washington Star