Titled Sobukwe: A Great Soul, the 2012 100-minute film is directed by Mickey Madoda Dubeis, and tells the story of philosopher, activist and political prisoner, the late Robert Sobukwe, asking why there isn’t a single surviving archive of a man who was once… “one of the most watched, most recorded, most vocal, most feared, most revered, most visionary – the most popular political prisoner in the world before Nelson Mandela?“
This docudrama explores why, for a figure who became an international icon, whose passing led to a special session at the UN, has not been acknowledged and celebrated in his own country (South Africa) outside his own political party.
Sobukwe was once the most renowned political detainee in the world, and prisoner number 1 on Robben Island, and the only man kept in solitary confinement for six solid years as a result of his leading role in the anti-Pass laws campaign, which led to the Sharpville massacres in 1960.
Pass laws in South Africa were segregattion and movement-limitation laws placed upon the country’s non-white people. The Black population were required to carry pass books with them when outside their compounds or designated areas. Failure to produce a pass often resulted in the person being arrested.
On 21 March 1960, 69 black South Africans were killed (a few hundred injured) when South African police opened fire on approximately 300 demonstrators, who were protesting against the Pass laws, at the township of Sharpeville.
In spite of all this, and other actions that would attract international prominence at a time the apartheid regime had become even more repressive and brutal, Sobukwe has been largely forgotten by the world and most of his countrymen.
The filmmakers consider the film, the first monument in Sobukwe’s name – to help restore his voice, which they feel is now more relevant than ever before.
Sobukwe: A Great Soul premiered on South Africa’s SABC 1 TV channel, on March 20th, and has since screened in other parts of Africa; it’ll next make its premiere in Namibia on October 27th, at the Goethe-Centre auditorium, at 8PM.
Luthuli Dlamini stars as the older Sobukwe. Others featured in the film include apartheid foreign minister Pik Botha, representing the other side of the argument; journalist Benjamin Pogrund; anti-apartheid hero and ex-Robben Islander Ahmed Kathrada; American scholar Molefi Kete Asante; and others.
The film uses both archival footage and scripted scenes to tell its story.
As it travels, we’ll continue to update you with cities and dates.
Take a look at a preview of the film below: