In 1979, South Africa’s apartheid regime kept blacks and whites separate and unequal. But three young men — Ivan Kadey, a white guitarist from Johannesburg’s Jewish side, and Gary and Punka Khoza, two Black Shangaan brothers from Soweto — dared to launch National Wake.
In a time and place where it was illegal for these young musicians to play or live together, their band and its fans fought back with music. They smashed every law to rebel — and filmed themselves doing so, with remarkable foresight and nerve, in astonishing Super 8.
Forty years after National Wake was shut down by South Africa’s racist government, veteranNew York music journalist Mirissa Neff embarked on telling their story. Relying on the band’s brilliant archival footage, and audio-only interviews, Neff eschews “talking heads” to expertly weave her subjects’ voices into a grainy Super 8 tapestry.
The result is a dreamlike immersion-into a heady but doomed utopian experiment, whose lasting lessons about imagining an anti racist world resound as loudly today as this historic band’s music.
This debut feature, steeped in previously unseen footage of a 1970s anti-racist counterculture that few know existed, reveals a band whose music and memories comprise a profound meditation on how history is lived through art and in our minds.“This is National Wake”is a Near Odessa Production association with XTR and with support from ITVS