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89 minutes, 2007
Director: Connie Field
DISCONTINUED visit Clarity Films for information on this title.

Part 4 of Have You Heard From Johannesburg?: From Selma to Soweato (formerly titled Apartheid and the Club of the West shows how a nation-wide campaign of civil disobedience, campus protest and finally legislative action, spearheaded by African American leaders spawned by the Civil Rights Movement, reversed American foreign policy toward South Africa in the face of the most right wing administration in our history. The film provides an inspiring civics lesson in how a grassroots movement can place an issue onto the national agenda, force its coverage by the mainstream media and eventually triumph over the most powerful and entrenched institutions in our society: corporations, the universities and even the federal government.

In the early 1980s, conservative leaders, Ronald Reagan in the U.S. and Margaret Thatcher in the U.K., steadfastly blocked UN resolutions calling for comprehensive sanctions against South African apartheid. We hear them argue that these would only hurt South Africa's poorest, but insiders reveal their real motivation was to save a Cold War ally. Instead of sanctions, Reagan proposed a policy of 'constructive engagement' where investment by 'enlightened' U.S. corporations would gradually liberalize the apartheid regime. A former official in the South African government candidly admits that the Reagan-Thatcher policy shored up the country with outside cash, putting off the inevitable collapse for years.

One of the few centers of resistance to the Reagan Revolution was the 7000 Black officials elected in the wake of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, especially the Congressional Black Caucus in the House of Representatives with such eloquent spokespeople as Ron Dellums. Another focus of dissent was TransAfrica, a small policy center established in 1977 to give African Americans a voice in U.S. policy towards Africa, headed by a charismatic, Harvard-trained lawyer, Randall Robinson. Activists relate how in late1984 TransAfrica devised a brilliant strategy for keeping South Africa in the news by staging daily arrests in front of the South African Embassy. Among the first arrested was Rosa Parks, often credited with igniting the Civil Rights Movement, who was followed by a parade of dignitaries and celebrities like Harry Belafonte and Paul Newman in what became known as 'designer arrests.' In the succeeding months over 4000 people were taken into custody in what became the longest running civil disobedience campaign in U.S. History.

The film shows how South African exiles and Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu tirelessly helped spread the movement across America. At Columbia University students demanded that the University endowment divest itself of stocks in companies doing business in South Africa; they occupied the administration building in scenes reminiscent of the student movement of the '60s. Their protests were repeated at other major universities and, as the repression in South Africa only intensified, the universities were forced to divest. Similarly, Black elected officials in cities and states across the country introduced legislation calling for their pension funds to divest billions of dollars in stocks and for their cities to stop purchasing from companies doing business in South Africa. Eventually more than twenty-five states enacted divestment resolutions.

Each evening a now attentive media brought bloody images of the increasing brutality of the South African regime into every home on the nightly news. By 1986 the groundswell of anti-apartheid sentiment reached Congress. 'Constructive engagement' had become an embarrassment even to some leading Republicans. The House and Senate overwhelmingly passed sanctions bills but Reagan stubbornly vetoed them. Long-time anti-apartheid activists recount how they held their breadth while the Senate over-rode the President's veto, the first foreign policy over-ride in the Reagan administration. The act had far-ranging implications as other Western powers felt compelled to follow suit, achieving the political isolation of the apartheid regime.

Have You Heard from Johannesburg?: Apartheid and the Club of the West is a scrupulously researched tribute to the first movement led by African Americans to challenge and overturn U.S. foreign policy. More than a film on recent African or U.S. history, it provides complex and revealing insights into contemporary American democracy, government, media and politics. The film demonstrates an important lesson as we as a people increasingly face global issues: that an initially small, dedicated grassroots movement can still seize the conscience of a nation and help change the course of world history.

Have You Heard From Johannesburg?: Apartheid and the Club of the West is the first completed segment of a six part series by Clarity Films on the world-wide anti-apartheid movement. To view the trailers and series descriptions please visit: www.clarityfilms.org/joburg
An online transcript is available for this title.
"This film is a captivating slice of one of the most important historical moments of the 20th Century. It contains a vital lesson and a clarion call for future generations that may be confronted with the challenge of human rights abuses at home and abroad: collective, concerted action does make a difference."
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, National Public Radio
"Absolutely superb. As one of the leaders of the Free South Africa Movement, I can vouch for the fact that the filmmakers got the story just right."
Roger Wilkins, George Mason University
"Like The Battle of Algiers, the 1966 film about the violent struggle against French colonial rule in Algeria, this film functions almost as a manual on how to topple an unjust regime."
Larry Rohter, The New York Times
"Very moving and effective. This story is especially important now, as a younger generation committed to social justice needs to see that we can win even against what seem to be overwhelming odds."
Adolph Reed, University of Pennsylvania


For more information on the U.S. anti-apartheid movement visit:

For a resource on the U.S. solidarity movements with Africa, please visit:
Africa World Press
To order videos: Clarity Films for information on this title.

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