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50 South African Films to Watch Before You Die...


South Africa has one of the oldest film industries in the world. Home to a diverse cross-section of people and places, it's a world of its own and has become a renowned film-making destination. Being a South African and movie critic, Spling has made it his mission to watch as many South African movies as possible!

This list of 50 South African Movies to Watch Before You Die is a contemporary reflection, which is by no means definitive. To simplify matters, Spling's sidelined documentaries and well-regarded classics. While there are hundreds of South African films, a few of which deserve a spot, the films listed below are some of Spling's favourites and come recommended. Be sure to click through to read or listen to his review before you commit to watching a film listed below. While they're all recommended, some are not for sensitive viewers.

50 South African Films to Watch Before You Die

1. District 9

Watching District 9 was a new film experience, which could only be described as Hotel Rwanda, Fido and Lars and the Real Girl... in a blender.

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2. Life, Above All

Life, Above All is a universal story about the intricate relationship between mother and daughter.

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3. Dis ek, Anna

Dis ek, Anna is a powerful and provocative drama that seeks to bring the issue to light by telling the personal story of Anna, a victim of domestic sexual abuse, against the backdrop of a country in crisis.

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4. Meerkat Maantuig

Meerkat Maantuig or Meerkat Moonship is a film by writer-director Hanneke Schutte, which tells the story of Gideonette, a young girl, who moves in with her grandparents after her father passes away and her mother goes to rehab.

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5. Yesterday

Yesterday is a simple, pure, slow and quietly powerful South African drama from writer-director Darryl Roodt. It's the first feature-length Zulu film and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Film, lauded for its universality and purity, positively compared with The Bicycle Thief.

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6. Kanarie

While South Africa’s complicated history of Apartheid diffuses the pop culture of the day, this is where we find Kanarie, a film about an army conscript searching for his true identity.

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7. Sink

Sink is a sleek, harrowing and powerful South African domestic drama.

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8. Liewe Kersfeesvader

While the title would make you think Christmas, this movie is more of a heartwarming sometimes prickly comedy drama about a dysfunctional family.

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9. Vir die Voëls

While Vir Die Voëls also has a dramatic and romantic element, its quirky comedic undertones are carried by a plucky lead character who narrates and stars.

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10. Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story

Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story tells of the troubled relationship between a mother and her drug-addicted son.

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11. Hard to Get

Hard to Get echoes a similar passion and energy to the acclaimed Congolese crime thriller, Viva Riva.

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12. Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond is an intense, thrilling, blood-drenched action drama about diamond smuggling in Africa.

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13. Nommer 37

Nommer 37 is an Afrikaans language homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, borrowing and re-imagining the concept at the heart of the classic thriller.

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14. Die Seemeeu

Die Seemeeu or The Seagull is based on a classic Russian play by Anton Chekhov, which was originally modernised for stage by writer-director Christiaan Olwagen.

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15. Five Fingers for Marseilles

Five Fingers for Marseilles is a gritty South African western directed by Michael Matthews and written by Sean Drummond...

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16. Material

Material is one of the smartest, most heartwarming movies to originate from South Africa, telling the story of a young Muslim man whose love for stand-up comedy leads to conflict when his father expects him to take over the family business.

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17. Tsotsi

Gavin Hood's Oscar-winning gangster movie, Tsotsi, put South Africa on the map with gritty, gripping and even touching crime drama.

18. Noem My Skollie

Noem My Skollie or Call Me Thief is the story of Abraham and the Young Ones, a small-time gang that were separated for two years by a dangerous stint in Pollsmoor prison.

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19. Inexba (The Wound)

Having been banned, classified as pornography and elicited vitriol for its revelations Inexba (The Wound) has been a contentious drama from the get-go.

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20. Wonderlus

South Africa has had its fair share of romantic comedies over the years but has never really toyed with a moody ensemble piece until Wonderlus...

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21. Fanie Fourie's Lobola

This new South African romantic comedy doesn't insult your senses, it's actually street smart and mature.

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22. Die Windpomp

Die Windpomp or The Windmill is a mercurial genre butterfly.

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23. Thina Sobabili

Thina Sobabili (The Two of Us) is a brave, gut-wrenching and realistic drama about the exploits of a brother and sister in the Alexandra township of Johannesburg, South Africa.

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24. Die Wonderwerker

Katinka Heyns is the director behind South African classics such as Paljas and Fiela se Kind...

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25. Beyond the River

South Africa needs Beyond the River, an uplifting sports drama based on a true story.

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26. The Bang Bang Club

The Bang Bang Club is the story of four conflict photographers, Greg Marinovich, Kevin Carter, Ken Oosterbroek and João Silva, in the build-up to South Africa's first democratic elections in 1994.

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27. Johnny is Nie Dood Nie

Johnny is Nie Dood Nie, adapted from a play by Malan Steyn, is a reunion drama in the tradition of The Big Chill as four friends gather for a braai on the Sunday after Johannes Kerkorrel's suicide to reminisce about their student days.

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28. Ballade vir 'n Enkeling

Ballade vir 'n Enkeling is an Afrikaans mystery drama based on the '80s television series of the same name.

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29. Vaselinetjie

Vaselinetjie is a fascinating character portrait drama based on the book by Anouska von Meck.

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30. Verraaiers

Verraaiers (Traitors) is the latest drama from director-writer team, Paul Eilers and Salmon de Jager, who previously collaborated on Roepman (Stargazer).

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31. Roepman

Set in 1966, Roepman (Stargazer) is a charming and nostalgic coming-of-drama taken from the perspective of an 11-year-old growing up in a railway community.

32. Faan se Trein

Faan se Trein is an adaptation of a popular Afrikaans stage production that has been running for almost 40 years.

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33. Four Corners

Pollsmoor Prison is overpopulated and way beyond capacity, famous for Nelson Mandela's incarceration and infamous for its prolific gangsterism.

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34. Tess

Tess is a film adaptation of Tracey Farren's novel, Whiplash, which follows the heartrending journey of a sex worker who falls pregnant, and the difficulties she encounters on the streets of Cape Town.

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35. Themba: A Boy Called Hope

Themba: A Boy Called Hope is an inspirational coming-of-age drama about a young South African boy's escape from poverty and the pursuit of a dream.

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36. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Nelson Mandela is an extraordinary man, whose life story plays like a political version of The Count of Monte Cristo.

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37. Ayanda

Ayanda is a fresh coming-of-age romance drama set in the suburb of Yeoville in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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38. Hollywood in my Huis

Hollywood in my Huis is a South African romantic comedy about a wallflower, living in an impoverished railway neighbourhood, who tries to devise the perfect matric prom.

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39. iNumber Number

iNumber Number leverages South Africa's burgeoning crime rate against Hollywood's burning desire to tell a story that's entertaining and thought-provoking.

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40. Chappie

Chappie is Neill Blomkamp's latest thought-provoking sci-fi actioner, following in the wake of Elysium and the revered District 9.

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41. Spud

Spud is faithful to the book, giving an account of 1990s South Africa with the release of Nelson Mandela and John "Spud" Milton's first year at Michaelhouse, an elite private boarding school for boys in Durban North.

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42. Necktie Youth

Necktie Youth is a black-and-white drama with a documentary feel that attempts to capture the Zeitgeist of South African youth culture.

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43. Little One

Little One is the story of a mother, who takes a young girl under her wing.

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44. My Father's War

My Father's War is a drama from writer-director, Craig Gardner, which examines the fractious relationship between David, a war veteran father, and his rebellious son, Dap.

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45. Siembamba

A young mother comes to terms with the trauma surrounding her new baby in the dark and unsettling horror thriller, Siembamba (The Lullaby).

46. Vir Altyd

Vir Altyd is the latest romance comedy drama from film-makers and stars, Donnalee Roberts and Ivan Botha.

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47. 'n Man soos My Pa

'n Man Soos My Pa, which means A Man Like My Father, is an Afrikaans ensemble drama about a family reunion that turns into an opportunity for father-son reconciliation.

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48. Invictus

Invictus is a film that attempts to capture the Zeitgeist of the New South Africa in its infancy.

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49. A Million Colours

A Million Colours is based on the true story of two best friends, who fought the system that tried to separate them, after they shot to fame in 1975 with the release of the South African film e'Lollipop.

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50. Vaya

Vaya is a South African crime drama, which essentially pivots on the story of three adolescents trying to find their way in the big city.

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