IDFA: Milisuthando

Milisuthando Bongela
Running Time
South Africa, Colombia
English, Xhosa

Filmmaker and writer Milisuthando Bongela was born in Transkei, which was then an “independent” Black republic in South Africa. At the time, she didn’t realize that the territory’s freedom was embedded in apartheid—beyond its borders, inhabitants had to deal with harsh discrimination and inequality. In this personal and poetic documentary, Bongela explores the different worlds in which she grew up: her childhood in the former Transkei, the small coastal city of East-London in the 1990s, and post-apartheid Johannesburg.

At the same time, she recounts the history of her native country during and after apartheid. Intense music and Bongela’s voice accompany the extraordinary archive footage, as she reflects on complex issues of power, fear, intimacy, friendship, and love, and her relationship with her white friends, who struggle with intergenerational guilt.

We also see friends, family, and historical figures. Together they highlight the subtler sides of racism. Milisuthando is both an honest and poignant self-portrait and a portrayal of a torn country.