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IN A TIME OF VIOLENCE
IN A TIME OF VIOLENCE Bookmark and Share

3 cassettes - 50 minutes each, 1994, South Africa
Producer: Jeremy Nathan for Afravision, Director: Brian Tilley
in Afrikaans, English and Zulu with English subtitles
ABOUT THE FILM
DISCONTINUED

Sometimes the reaction to a film can be almost as interesting as the film itself. When the first episode of In a Time of Violence aired in July, 1994, thousands of Zulu hostel dwellers, supporters of the Inkatha Freedom Party, stormed South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) headquarters. They threatened the cast with violence; the rival ANC reported 11 deaths related to the telecast. CCV, the arm of SABC which broadcasts specifically to the black population, banned the remaining two episodes. But, after a nation-wide protest against this capitulation to political pressure, it broadcast the entire series a week later to a record audience.

In a Time of Violence is a fast paced political thriller set during the final tense months of apartheid. One of the most ambitious television dramas ever produced in South Africa, it was written by Mapantsula director Olivers Schmitz, stars some of the country's finest actors and features a vibrant score by top Township bands. The series dramatizes the basic ANC policy of ethnic reconciliation within a multi-racial democratic society.

The series' hero, Bongani, a young ANC activist and poet from Soweto, is the sole witness to a brutal train massacre by an Inkatha militant, Duma. When Bongani is recognized he and his girlfriend, Mpho, a member of his ANC youth unit, take refuge in his uncle's flat in Comiston Court, a run-down apartment block in Johannesburg.

If Soweto represents the old South Africa of inter-ethnic violence, the residents of Comiston Court suggest a post- apartheid "Rainbow Coalition:" Bongani's uncle, an up-and- coming trader; the Afrikaaner caretaker, adrift in the new society; a Coloured prostitute, who shares his lonelienss; a gay black couple; a disillusioned former Mozambican revolutionary, now a gun-runner.

The series deftly interweaves the Soweto and Comiston Court storylines to contrast violent and non-violent paths to South Africa's future. The apartment block unites across racial and class lines in a successful rent strike against a black real estate speculator, an example of the series' deliberate challenging of stereotypes. A renegade white police agent who has been supplying Duma with guns, kidnaps Bongani (revealing police involvement in what came to be called "black on black violence.") But in the changing political climate, it is legal pressure, not Bongani's armed ANC comrades, which leads to his ultimate release.

The following quotes, a cross section of the commentary around In a Time of Violence, explore important questions about the role of the media both in South Africa and the U.S. How can television insure balance without sacrificing diverse points of view? How can it help forge a new multi-cultural society yet insure minorities the right to dissent from this consensus?
CRITICAL COMMENT
A SAMPLING OF THE DEBATE...
"Now with more publicity than it could have hoped for, In a Time of Violence, has a lot to live up to. The good news is it delivers."
Weekly Mail and Guardian
"Are we politically mature enough, emotionally stable enough to watch our wounds - which have only just started healing - being ripped open again?...One of the best made series in this country, this is a film which should be seen by all South Africans."
The Weekend Argus
"The movie was very weak and failed dismally as a portrayal of contemporary South African history...The SABC formerly called sarcastically, 'his (National Party) master's voice,' seems determined to do its worst to become, 'his (ANC) master's voice."
Weekend Star
"Reconstruction and development have to take place on the cultural front. It is easy enough to reclaim the past, to celebrate it, but far more taxing to acknowledge its excesses and tragedies in a process of reconciliation and catharsis."
The Star
"I have no doubt In a Time of Violence is defamatory. The state funded SABC has an obligation to be mindful of impartiality when it uses taxpayers' money to purchase such work. It poses a threat to their lives and that of their families."
Inkatha Freedom Party
"If the spirit of transparency and openness is to permeate our new culture of reconciliation, then all South African audiences should be allowed the freedom to decide for themselves."
Jeremy Nathan and Brian Tilley, producer and director
"Those associated with this film will be washed from the face of the earth."
National Hostel Residents Association
"It was very pro-ANC and anti-Inkatha. But it was a work of fiction. If you argue that fictional programs have to be balanced, where do you draw the line?"
Broadcast Monitoring Project
"If the lines are not clearly defined now, then we are paving the way for political approval of everything we do and say...We believe that you, the South African people, expect us to take a stand for media independence from politics."
CCV Management Statement

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