Milestone Films presents Lionel Rogosin’s 1959 secretly filmed Come Back Africa, a historical wonder and an honest glimpse into the harsh reality of life under the now-abolished South African apartheid government.
After witnessing firsthand the terrors of fascism as a soldier in World War II, director Lionel Rogosin vowed to fight against it wherever and whenever he saw its threats reemerging. In an effort to expose “what people try to avoid seeing,” Rogosin travelled to apartheid-struck South Africa and secretly filmed Come Back, Africa, which revealed the cruelty and injustice with which black South Africans were treated.
Apartheid rule, a legal system of separation according to race, began in South Africa in 1948. This system forced black South Africans—who composed a majority of the public’s population—into crowded slums where they received poorer public services than those provided to the white minority. Before beginning the production of Come Back, Africa, Rogosin spent several months touring Africa, becoming accustomed to the way of life in South Africa and acquiring a sense of the apartheid government’s sensitivity to anti-government “conspiracies”–such as the very film he wished to create.
Much of Come Back, Africa was filmed in Sophiatown, a township reserved for blacks. Blacks who had been separated into urban ghettos decades before were now considered a threat to the whites in South Africa, and so previously designated “black spots” were now being demolished and their residents transported to even worse areas. The result of this policy was demolition of towns such as Sophiatown, which was being gradually destroyed during the production of the film.
A jarring view of a largely concealed environment of injustice, Come Back, Africa honestly and sincerely captures images of the long faces of a people oppressed. Casting occurred before the script for the movie was written; the script itself was a vague sketch of plot points which the actors added to with their own dialogue, to make the film a more authentic representation of the living conditions of the time.
Taking its name from the title of an African National Congress slogan, Come Back, Africa premiered at the Venice Film Festival where it won the Critics Award. Milestone is proud to release this historic film both theatrically and, after its initial run, on DVD and Blu-Ray.