Soldiers of the Rock

This ambitious South African allegory of oppression and liberation takes the action genre to a deeper level. During a break in his business studies, Vuyo decides to take a job in a gold mine, to experience the world where his father lived and died for the sake of Vuyo's future. Here he encounters the men he calls “the heart and soul of South Africa,” the black laborers who created the country's wealth. When one miner tries to organize the others to pool their resources and buy their own mine, desire, fear, and rivalry build toward spectacular disaster. Writer-director Norman Maake was twenty-one when the film was made, a student at South African film school AFDA, where (according to a press release) “graduates are trained to...manufacture indigenous cultural products and commodities for the international market.” Maake has clearly learned his lessons well, combining a story of deeply local meaning with Hollywood-worthy stylistics: slow-motion violence, dark, slick surfaces, beads of sweat and humidity glistening like stars.

Winner, Special Jury Prize, Best Screenplay, Los Angeles Pan African Film Festival; Best Feature Film, San Francisco Black Film Festival, 2004.

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