DER Documentary

A South African Farm


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by Paul Laufer
color, 51 min, 1983




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After a five-year absence from South Africa, filmmaker Paul Laufer returned to his country to film a microcosm of a society in turmoil, a society in which whites are driven by fears of loss of privilege, and blacks are torn between the material benefits of white "Protection" and the desire to be free from oppression.

On the farm of Laufer's godfather in South Africa's eastern highlands, black workers enjoy fairly decent living conditions. The godfather, a Czech emigre, has even built a school, although black pupils must walk for miles while white youngsters take a bus to their school in town.

In a time of great concern about South Africa it is especially important to understand the everyday workings of apartheid, and the perspectives of blacks and whites caught in the system. A South African Farm allows us to meet and to listen to the voices of diverse men and women: the farm foreman, the butcher, the cook and her husband, an unemployed man still living on the farm, the Indian shopkeeper, a youth in the army, a teacher and a school principal, and the godfather, who reflects upon black/white relations while collecting mushrooms or playing pool. The black people on the farm express opinions about homelands, dependency, and the quality of life. The overwhelming impression, however, is of wariness and silencing: the power of this film lies in what is not - what cannot be - said.

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