The miracle of Lionel Rogosin’s apartheid drama Come Back, Africa isn’t that it’s a solid, affecting artifact of a cruel society, but that it exists at all.
“Four Stars! Come Back, Africa is a work of amazing grace—and a forgotten treasure.” -Sam Adams, Time Out New York
After a recent conversation with Susan Weeks Coulter, chairwoman of the Global Film Initiative, whose Global Lens series is currently in full swing at MoMA before a cross-country tour, my mind—in a humanitarian, can-do state—wandered to recent cinema history. Where has cinema caused change to happen, to move the needle in the name of progress? When was the last time this occurred—not a polite discussion, but real social and political change?
I found myself coming back to these prodding questions upon a recent viewing Lionel Rogosin’s second feature “Come Back, Africa” (1959). The film, which aesthetically works as a blend of pioneer documentarian Robert Flaherty and Italian neorealist Vittorio De Sica, exposes the jaw-dropping racism and social injustice that has victimized black South Africans under the apartheid government since its enactment in 1948….
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At a film festival, hundreds of films flow by—a relentless river of images—and this viewer sometimes struggles to keep his head above the flood. But I drink the extra macchiato and forgo sleep just to discover the one or two films that will leave me with a feeling of wonder, a sense of greatness. When I heard the film’s co-author Lewis N’kosi introduce Lionel Rogosin’s 1959 anti-apartheid film Come Back, Africa (starring Zacharia Mgabi and Miriam Makeba), I had the feeling that this would be one of the films that make me love my job. I was at a Cinema Ritrovato outdoor screening in Bologna’s Piazza Maggiore and N’kosi’s magnificent voice and words echoed on the ancient buildings surrounding the square. I remember thinking: “This is the kind of film Milestone has to distribute.”…
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Welcome to Milestone’s COME BACK, AFRICA website! Restored by the Cineteca di Bologna and the Rogosin Heritage Foundation, Lionel Rogosin’s 1960 film on the South African apartheid system can finally be seen as a masterpiece of cinema and of political protest. We welcome your stories, ideas and views!
– Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, Milestone Film & Video — firstname.lastname@example.org