(director/writer: Milisuthando Bongela; cinematographer: Hankyeol Lee; editor: Hankyeol Lee; music: Neo Muyanga, Msaki (Asanda Lusaseni); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Marion Isaacs; Multitude Films/Early Hours; 2023-USA-in and Xhosa with English subtitles)

“Lyrical account of the lasting legacy of apartheid in South Africa.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The film is named after its Black South African first time director Milisuthando Bongela. Her curious moving documentary tells of her memory while growing up content living as a middle-class child in an apartheid state that was all Black.

She was born in 1985 in Transkei, a homeland for the Xhosa people that South Africa had designated nine years before for the Blacks as a racist social experiment. During its 18-year existence, it remained an internationally unrecognized state. When apartheid ended, Transkei was reintegrated and Bongela’s family moved to a mixed South African city. The now defunct state lasted from 1976 to 1994.

Bongela is currently an artist, activist and writer based in Johannesburg.

Milisuthando is the director’s lyrical account of the lasting legacy of apartheid in South Africa. Her personal essay is a work of art that is mesmerizing as it evokes the essence of a nation as seen through its people and the ever-shifting social structures that shaped the country for both Blacks and whites.

The narrative includes impressive footage from South Africa in the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s along with the director’s family photos, home movies, and interviews with her grandmother and friends.

Bongela sets its tone by telling us “I have to be very careful about remembering my memories.”

I found the frank conversation between Bongela and her white producer and friend, Marion Isaacs, most compelling–it revealed the scars left by apartheid between Blacks and whiles.

It’s a film that navigates over the tangled mess left by a country on the wrong path and its people searching for their identities.

It played at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art and Film at Lincoln Center. It also played at the Sundance Film Festival.

A vintage photo of a group of African women who appear to
          be in church, in vibrant dresses and hats.
REVIEWED ON 6/30/2023  GRADE: B+