“Stupid, stupid reasons.” This was how Tonie van der Merwe, the writer and producer of Joe Bullet, a 1973 ground-breaking film screened at the Eyethu Cinema in Soweto described the reasons given by the apartheid regime for banning his movie. This was the first South African-produced film with a black action hero and an all-black cast.
After two screenings, the apartheid censors banned the film – a film Benjamin Cowley, the CEO of Gravel Road Productions described as “unique” because “at the height of apartheid, no one was producing movies with all-black cast members for black audiences”.
But Joe Bullet was not the only film that heralded the days of apartheid in South Africa. Amidst strict censorship, there were several movies that were produced about the situation of black people in the country.
When Joe Bullet failed commercially, it demonstrated a huge demand in South Africa, particularly by the black majority population, for films like that.
Here is a list of some of the most popular films from the era of apartheid that highlighted the demeaning nature in which blacks were treated, eventually telling the stories that described what apartheid was like in South Africa.