Playlist: Have You Heard From Johannesburg? documentary trailers
Have You Heard From Johannesburg?
Since September 2010, SABC 2 has been screening the seven-part documentary, Have you heard from Johannesburg? The series shines light on the global citizens’ movement that took on South Africa’s
Apartheid regime. Director Connie Field calls this movement “the largest human rights campaign in history.”
Connie is an Oscar nominee and Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner for Freedom on My Mind, a history of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.
Have you heard from Johannesburg? similarly gained worldwide acclaim: the episode Apartheid and the Club of the West won Best Documentary at The Vancouver International Film Festival in 2006 and The Pan African Film Festival in 2007.
I chatted to Connie at The Durban International Film Festival, where the Have you heard from Johannesburg? episode Fairplay was one of my favourite screenings. It explained the
role of the international sports boycott in the fight against Apartheid and how South Africa was excluded first from the Olympics and then from international rugby.
Speaking about the series as a whole, Connie says, “This is a story about people who were fighting for
their rights against a very oppressive regime and were able to strategically harness the rest of the world. I wanted to understand the movement inside South Africa and what it did that attracted world attention.”
She was interested by the global aspects of the story, like the way The United Nations Declaration of Human
Rights was the same year The National Party came to power.
Her biggest challenge was that the story hadn’t been told before in any medium. “It made it very difficult,
as this was all original research,” Connie says. “The series starts in 1948 and ends in 1990. It covers 12 countries and 50 years. I couldn’t go by a book, so I interviewed 135 people all over the world and collected archival footage from everywhere.”
She had teams just databasing. “We had to describe and timecode every piece of footage, as well as
tons of photos.”
Structure was another challenge. Connie initially had 13 one-hour episodes, then re-cut chronologically.
“Finally, we found a way that was both thematic and chronological.”
She believes her perspective as a non-South African outsider is a strength. “When you’re living through
things, it’s very difficult to see your victories. Often you can only see them from a distance.”
Connie spent 12 years on the project, although during this time she also made Salud!, about Cuba’s role in the struggle for global health equity.
She received funding from The Ford Foundation and the American government, which was pulled after
Bush came into power. She kept the project alive by living off her older films and not drawing any salary, and by keeping a small staff.
SABC2 screened the 52-minute versions, rather than the original 90-minute edits.