Africa Reading and Viewing List

Reading/Viewing List for S. Africa – 2012



Long Walk to Freedom – Nelson Mandela (there is an abbreviated version, which is also very good)

Cape Town Calling: From Mandela to Theronx on the Mother City – edited by Justin Fox

Rainbow Diary: A Journey in the New South Africa – John Malathronas


All the National Geographic documentaries on Southern African Wildlife are very good!


Africa: The Serengeti 1994  James Earl Jones narrates

African Cats 2011

Wild Africa Cats  1994


Film: (available on Netflix, itunes and other digital services)


Out of Africa (1985)

If you are planning an East African safari and you want to get in the mood, this is a good movie to watch. The scenery is spectacular, the acting is great and it’s very romantic. This movie has proved to be one of Kenya’s most effective marketing tools.


The Last King of Scotland (2006)

A movie about a young doctor working in Uganda who finds himself unwittingly picked as the personal physician to one of the world’s most brutal dictators, Idi Amin. Forest Whitaker won an Oscar for his incredible performance.

The movie was filmed on location in Uganda so if you’re planning to travel in that part of Africa, it’s worth watching just to get a feel of the countryside. Uganda is now at peace and Idi Amin and his equally brutal successor, Milton Obote, are distant memories


Red Dust (2004)

It was not just the handing over of power from a white regime to a black democratically elected government that set South Africa apart; it was the jaw-dropping Truth and Reconciliation Commission that saw secret police and guerillas ‘fess up, voluntarily. This movie tells the story behind some of those stories. Raw action, just like the red dust of the title is the backdrop. The story of South African-born attorney Sarah Barcant who returns to her homeland to represent a former political prisoner – is played by Hillary Swank.

Cry, the Beloved Country (1995)

Adapted from the award-wining novel, the story of a black, country parish priest who is summoned to Johannesburg where he learns his son is in jail for the murder of young white man. The action is about the priest and the murdered man’s white racist father. The book starts “There is a lovely road that runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass-covered and rolling, and they are lovely beyond any singing of it.” But it is the inner journey taken by these two men is the heart of the film

Cry Freedom

Made in 1987, Cry Freedom was based on the best-selling book by South African newspaper editor Donald Woods and told the story of his attempts to uncover the truth of what happened to Steven Biko and Woods own subsequent escape from South Africa. Directed by Richard Attenborough, it starred Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington. With South Africa still firmly in the grip of apartheid at the time, Zimbabwe stood in as the location, with filming taking place in Harare. It was nominated for three Oscars and numerous other awards.


First staged as a musical at Johannesburg’s Market Theatre, Sarafina! was the brainchild of Mbongeni Ngema, who wrote the book, music, lyrics and even directed the show. An unlikely  musical, it told the story of the Soweto uprisings of June 1976. The play transferred to Broadway on 28 January, 1988. The film, made in 1992, starred Whoopi Goldberg and Leleti Khumalo, who also won a Tony award for the Broadway version.


Released in 1964, Total Film magazine readers nominated Zulu the 37th greatest Hollywood movie of all time, while British TV viewers rated it no 8 in their top 100 Greatest War Movies. It retells the epic battle of Rorke’s Drift, at which a handful of 150 British soldiers fought off 4,000 Zulu warriors. It was shot more or less on location in Kwazulu-Natal, although the Drakensberg Mountains were rearranged, closer to the battlefield to make it more picturesque!
 A prequel, Zulu Dawn, about the battle of Isandlwana, was made by Cy Endfield in 1979.

A Dry White Season

Set during the 1976 Soweto Uprisings and based on a novel by André Brink, this hard-hitting film followed the conversion to the cause of a white teacher, Ben du Toit, who came to under- stand the effects of apartheid. As he follows through on a personal crusade, the journey exacts a terrible toll on his family life. Zimbabwe once again stood in for South Africa, where it was impossible to shoot films that tackled apartheid issues.

Catch a Fire

This follows the story of the apartheid struggle from the armed insurrection of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the ANC in the 1960s right up to the reconciliation at the end of the apartheid era through the story of a young black man who unwittingly gets caught up in the struggle and the policeman who arrests him. The real Patrick Chamusso, on whom the film is based, appears as a walk-on, while writer Shawn Slovo’s parents, leaders of the South African Communist Party and famous anti-apartheid activists, Joe Slovo and Ruth First, also appear. Her sister, Robyn Slovo, plays her mother in the movie. The film was shot in South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland.

The African Queen

Of course one of the all time great movies that has anything to do with Africa is a 1951 adventure film adapted from the 1935 novel of the same name by C. S. Forester.

On Flora and Fauna:

Behaviour Guide to African Mammals – Richard Estes

Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa – Ken Newman

Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa – C. & T.  Stuart

Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa – Bill Branch

The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals – Jonathan Kingdon

Wildlife of Southern Africa, A Field Guide – Vincent Carruthers

Photographic Guide to the Trees of Southern Africa – Braam van Wyk

National Parks and Other Wild Places of Southern Africa – Nigel Dennis

Pocket Guide to the Night Skies of southern Africa – Peter Mack



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