Representing nation in post-apartheid South Africa film : Invictus, Jerusalema and A small town called Descent.
Haarhoff, Mandisa Roeleene.
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This dissertation explores three South African films, Invictus (2009), Jerusalema (2008) and A Small Town Called Descent (2010), as representative of the post-apartheid socio-political and economic South African context. I suggest that these films infer, through narrative portrayal, a change from the celebrated moment of South Africa’s political transition in 1994, with hopes of peace and unity as well as equality, to a time of greater anxieties about South Africa’s difficult realities. The latter include contemporary issues of crime, poverty and the dispossession of hundreds of foreigners in 2008, which are symptomatic of economic inequalities and socio-political instabilities. I follow the narrative journey, and use the film’s respective contexts, as a way of discussing the socio-political and economic problems reflected in the films. Clint Eastwood’s Invictus sets the idea of national unity in motion, highlighting strongly the ‘rainbow nation’ image of South Africa and the notion of the post-apartheid context as an imagined space for equal opportunity. Ralph Ziman’s Jerusalema continues from the ideological optimism set up in Invictus. The film depicts the pragmatic failures of economic equality and (therefore) national unity, suggesting a causal notion that poverty paired with a strong desire for economic success results in crime. The film also deals with issues of xenophobic tensions, reflecting the time of its release and anticipating the xenophobia-centered narrative in Jahmil Qubheka’s A Small Town Called Descent. The latter film resonates with the notions set up in Invictus, tying in to the context depicted in Jerusalema, leading me to conclude that the South Africa in Invictus is gruesomely different from the one in Descent, showing thus a clear move away from the ideology of unity, peace and equality.