Distributor:  Icarus Films
Length:  55 minutes
Date:  1974
Genre:  Expository
Language:  English
Grade level: 10-12, College, Adult
Color/BW:  Color
Closed captioning available
Interactive transcript available
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Last Grave at Dimbaza

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Shot secretly and smuggled out of South Africa at the height of the apartheid era, this was the most widely screened and influential anti-apartheid documentary.

Last Grave at Dimbaza

In 1969, a small group of South African exiles and British film students formed Morena Films in London to produce films about the apartheid. In 1974, they produced one of the first, and certainly the most influential, films about apartheid. LAST GRAVE AT DIMBAZA - shot clandestinely in South Africa and smuggled out of the country - had an enormous impact on global opinion at a critical moment in the struggle against apartheid, revealing to worldwide audiences the shocking inequalities between whites and blacks in South Africa. It went on to win major awards at many international film festivals. The streaming version was encoded from a newly restored digital master.

This documentary exposé is now a rare, primary visual resource, a portrait of a time and place that was largely unrecorded by photographs or film. It combines scenes of everyday life in South Africa with statements from political leaders that characterize the government's blatantly racist policies.

Filmed throughout South Africa, from Capetown to Johannesburg, as well as in the surrounding black townships and the desolate bantustans, LAST GRAVE AT DIMBAZA visually portrays the stark contrasts between living and working conditions for the majority populace of 18 million blacks and the 4 million whites who rule over them. In addition to revealing the migratory labor system, which separates black families for most of the year, and a repressive passbook policy to control black workers' movements, the film examines the gross inequities in such areas as housing, education, health care, industry, and agriculture.

By combining its clandestinely-photographed scenes of everyday life with relevant statements from National Party leaders such as B.J. Vorster that characterize the government's unabashedly racist policies, LAST GRAVE AT DIMBAZA becomes a stunning indictment of the apartheid system, which had controlled South Africa since 1948. The film's concluding scenes, contrasting increasing labor unrest and strikes amongst black workers and the compulsory training in armaments use for all white South Africans, dramatically foreshadows the conflict that developed during the following two decades, and which culminated in the end of apartheid with the nation's first multiracial elections in 1994.

'Compelling... In this time of ultra-fast-paced information technology and short historical memory, [LAST GRAVE] serves as a necessary reminder of human cruelty and suffering. Its stark visual account and narrative form serve as good teaching tools, illustrating the lessons of the past so that people might apply them to the future.' The Journal of Pan African Studies

'Seminal! Powerful!'-Leon van der Merwe, University of Cape Town

'Provides a window to a world one cannot easily forget... provides the viewer with a clear understanding of the life of the average black person in South Africa.'-Educational Media Reviews Online

'Continually juxtaposes the two communities of South Africa to ghastly effect, and the cold statistics of its commentary are unbearable.'-Time Out

'Explosive! Essential background.'-The Washington Star


** 2006 African Studies Association Film Festival
** Best Film, 1975 FESPACO African Film Festival
** Best Film, 1975 Melbourne International Film Festival
** George Sadoul Prize, 1975 Paris Film Festival
** International Prize, 1975 Grenoble Film Festival
** Peace Prize, 1975 Leipzig Documentary Festival


Main credits

Curling, Chris (Director)
Mahomo, Nana (Producer)
Caccia, Antonia (Producer)
Tsehlana, Andrew (Producer)

Other credits

Photography, Benoît Dervaux; editor, Yannick Leroy.

Distributor credits

Directed by Chris Curling and Pascoe Macfarlane
Produced by Nana Mahomo, Antonia Caccia and Andrew Tsehiana

Docuseek2 subjects

South Africa
Civil Rights
Race and Racism
African History
Human Rights
African Studies

Distributor subjects

Business Ethics
Civil Rights
Closed Captioned
Health Care Issues
High School Use
History (World)
Human Rights
South Africa


Nana Mahomo; South Africa; apartheid; ANC; place; labor markets; labor market; regional geography; political geography; historical geography; film; video; documentary; dvd; apartheid; Johannesburg; South Africa; Pan African Congress; exile; standard of living; infant mortality rate; education; "Last Grave at Dimbaza"; Icarus Films

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