Land Is White, The Seed Is Black, The/African Violet

  • 1997
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Experimental

Two short films from Koto Bolofo, an English photographer and filmmaker who was born in South Africa, approach life in apartheid-riven South Africa from opposing perspectives. Together, they form a powerful and poetic collage of lives irrevocably altered by imperialism and racial hatred. In "The Land Is White, the Seed Is Black," Bolofo's father tells the...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Two short films from Koto Bolofo, an English photographer and filmmaker who was born in South Africa, approach life in apartheid-riven South Africa from opposing perspectives. Together, they form a powerful and poetic collage of lives irrevocably altered by

imperialism and racial hatred. In "The Land Is White, the Seed Is Black," Bolofo's father tells the story of his life and eventual exile from South Africa as a political refugee. Once a history teacher at an all-black school, Professor Bolofo's persecution began when white school officials noticed

a quote from Karl Marx in one of the teacher's text books (never mind that the book had been officially authorized by the South African government). Over beautifully shot black-and-white images of township life, Bolofo intercuts his father's nightmarish story with dialogue from a play: Told in a

bright, animated voice, the tale nonetheless reflects hardships facing black South Africans with piercing clarity. The second film, "African Violet," is a fiction -- a speculative peek into the hearts and minds of five white Englishwomen living in South Africa in the 1960s. With varying degrees of

self-awareness, each shows how rigid racial division and Britain's presence in the country have changed their lives. One woman dreamt of growing old and dying a pastor's wife in England, but finds herself stranded alone on a dusty highway under the broiling African sun. A second fastidiously

prepares for a garden party while in voice-over she discusses her feelings about the (presumably black) maid she clearly hates for having an unshakable sense of pride and self-respect. In between story fragments, actor Timothy West is heard reading passages from George Orwell's 1984, and a

smiling black man in a bowler hat follows a cricket match on a transistor radio. He's a deceptively cheerful image symbol of British imperialism, but in Bolofo's hands he becomes a greater sign of reconciliation and hope.

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  • Released: 1997
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Two short films from Koto Bolofo, an English photographer and filmmaker who was born in South Africa, approach life in apartheid-riven South Africa from opposing perspectives. Together, they form a powerful and poetic collage of lives irrevocably altered b… (more)

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