Cry Freedom and Mapantsula: The True Spirit of Anti-Apartheid Films

Essay by mcjules12University, Bachelor'sA, March 2004

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Just as most American western films concern Cowboys and Indians, Mapantsula and Cry Freedom are about liberation and political freedom for black South Africans. They are two films spawned from the same genre: the Anti-Apartheid film. Although the two movies share many of the same qualities and serve many of the same purposes, they have numerous noteable differences. The political goals of the two movies, however, are much more static in purpose.

To understand the political impact of movies such as Mapantsula and Cry Freedom it is important to note the extreme restrictions that the South African government placed on films during apartheid. As Mark Beittel comments in his article, "Mapantsula," "the relationship between cinema, crime, and politics provides a useful historical background" for viewing such movies as Cry Freedom and Mapantsula. South African natives were only allowed to see films that were approved by the government, which left little room for films that included issues on anti-apartheid movements.

Not until recently have South Africans been allowed to view films about apartheid. What is interesting about these restrictions is the type of films that was allowed to be shown. Often included were American westerns and mafia and gangster films. These same films would prove to be the foundations of many South African gangs such as Mapantsula, which was a term originally used to describe the baggy pants that many gangsters wore in American mafia movies. Beittel says that "the style of gangster movies has long since influenced the township underworld." How ironic that the South African government banned movies about apartheid but allowed films that inspired South African gangs and uprisings.

In light of their apparent negative attitude towards movies, the South African government would have probably banned the filming of Mapantsula as well. But the...