Sundays, January 15, 22, 29at 10 p.m. – Independent Lens "Have you Heard from Johnannesburg"
(Rochester, NY) – Filmed throughout the world over the course of more than ten years, Have You Heard From Johannesburg is the definitive cinematic history of the worldwide effort to destroy South African apartheid. A story that has never been told in any medium before and featuring interviews with dozens of the major players, this formidable accomplishment is anything but dry and academic: it’s a lively, tension-filled, heartrending, and ultimately thrilling portrait of an unprecedented global movement that forever changed a nation and the world. From acclaimed filmmaker Connie Field, this epic five-hour, five-film history will stand as the final word on how a violent, racist, intractable government was destroyed by the concerted efforts of
men and women working on multiple fronts inside and outside South Africa for more than three decades. Have You Heard From Johannesburg?, part one, premieres Sunday, January 15 at 10 p.m. on WXXI-TV/HD (DT21.1/cable 1011 and 11). The series continues Sundays, January 22 and January 29 at 10 p.m.
In 1948, as the United Nations adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, South Africa heads in the opposite direction, implementing a rigid, racist system of laws called apartheid to segregate its people in every aspect of life. The black majority in South Africa, led by the African National Congress (ANC), mounts a nonviolent campaign of defiance, attracting the
attention of activists in Britain, Sweden, and the United States — and sowing the seeds of an international movement. The world reacts with horror when protesters are gunned down in the town of Sharpeville, and the entire ANC leadership is forced underground or imprisoned. Nelson Mandela is jailed for life and the movement in South Africa is effectively shut down as hundreds
escape into exile. The future of the movement is now on the shoulders of ANC Deputy President Oliver Tambo, who escapes into exile and embarks on what will become a 30-year journey to engage the world in the struggle to bring democracy to South Africa. He first finds allies in the newly independent countries of Africa and then approaches the U.N. for support, insisting that
the apartheid government can be forced to the negotiating table if the Security Council will sanction and isolate the regime. But the western powers refuse to act, forcing Tambo to search for new support. He successfully petitions the Soviet Union for help in building a guerilla army, a decision that lands Tambo in the vise of the Cold War and haunts his global efforts for years to come.
But two individuals help to open crucial doors in the West: Olof Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden, and Bishop Trevor Huddleston, whose early support inspires Tambo to seek out strategic partnerships with faith leaders worldwide. As a new decade dawns, Tambo has financing from Sweden and from the World Council of Churches, which decides to support the
liberation movement, and in so doing raises awareness about and support for the anti-apartheid movement in congregations around the world. With powerful new allies on his side, Tambo has the beginnings of a worldwide movement.
Part 2-5 decriptions and air dates:
The New Generation, part 2, airs Sunday, January 15 at 11 p.m.
It is youth, both inside and outside, who next join the growing movement against apartheid. Buoyed by new support in western countries, Oliver Tambo returns to the United Nations to try to convince them to sanction South Africa. His efforts gain new public support as the brutal suppression of a youth uprising in the South African township of Soweto and the murder of freedom fighter Steve Biko turn South Africa from a country into a cause, a worldwide emblem of injustice. A significant victory is won when the United Nations issues a mandatory arms embargo: the first in history. But South Africa’s strongest trading partners in the West still will not sanction it economically and, as Tambo heads to Zambia to minister to the ANC’s growing guerrilla army, a bloodbath seems inevitable. But even as the most powerful western governments refuse to heed Tambo’s calls for cultural and economic boycotts, the citizens of those western nations will help turn the tide.
From Selma to Soweto, part 3, airs Sunday, January 22 at 10 p.m.
Long one of South Africa's most important and powerful allies, the United States becomes a key battleground in the anti-apartheid movement as African Americans lead the charge to change the U.S. government’s policy toward the apartheid regime. Strengthened through years of grassroots organizing during the civil rights movement, black leaders and their allies take the campaign to corporate boardrooms, universities, embassies, and finally to Congress itself, where a stunning victory is won against the formidable opposition of President Ronald Reagan. African Americans alter U.S. foreign policy for the first time in history, and the U.S. — once the backbone of support for apartheid South Africa as its ally in the Cold War — finally imposes sanctions. European sanctions follow, and with them, the political isolation of the apartheid regime.
The Bottom Line, part 4, airs Sunday, January 22 at 11 p.m.
This is the story of the first-ever international grassroots campaign to successfully use economic pressure to help bring down a government. Recognizing the apartheid regime’s dependence on its financial connections to the West, citizens all over the world — from employees of Polaroid to student account-holders in Barclay’s Bank to consumers who boycott Shell — refuse to let business with South Africa go on as usual. Boycotts and divestment campaigns bring the anti-apartheid movement into the lives and communities of people around the world, helping everyday people understand and challenge Western economic support for apartheid. Faced with attacks at home and growing chaos in South Africa, international companies pull out in a mass exodus, causing a financial crisis in the now-isolated South Africa and making it clear that the days of the apartheid regime are numbered.
Free At Last, part 5, airs Sunday, January 29 at 10 p.m.
Diving into the heart of the conflict, South Africans tell the story of the most important effort in the anti-apartheid campaign of the 80’s: the alliance that brought together freedom fighters in South Africa as never before. A mass movement gains unprecedented momentum when three generations of resistance fighters band together as The United Democratic Front (UDF). Faced with growing international isolation, the apartheid government tries to win allies and convince the world of the merit of its piecemeal reforms even as it struggles to suppress open revolt, at times using savage and secret tactics. The UDF protests climax in a fierce campaign of defiance, and internationally, Nelson Mandela becomes a household name as the campaign to free him ignites a worldwide crusade. Caught between an unstoppable internal mass movement and ongoing international pressure, the apartheid regime is finally forced to the negotiating table and at last lifts the decades-long bans on the ANC. After twenty-seven years in prison, Nelson Mandela is released, sparking a global celebration as he tours the world to thank all.
After 30 years in exile, Oliver Tambo is finally able to return to South Africa. But the struggle has taken a heavy toll on him and he will die one year before his comrade, Nelson Mandela, is elected the first black president of a democratic South Africa.
To learn more about the film, and the issues involved, visit the companion website at www.pbs.org/independentlens/have-you-heard-fromjohannesburg/. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmaker, and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section, where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.
Pictured: Bishop Desmond Tutu, 1988
Credit: Courtesy of Anti-Apartheid Movement Archives Committee
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