Featuring never before seen archival footage and interviews, filmmakers Larry Shore and Tami Gold tell the little-known story of Senator Robert Kennedy’s influential June 1966 visit to South Africa during the worst years of Apartheid.
The film is a unique portrait of Senator Kennedy in action at an important moment in American and South African history. The filmmakers explore the visit through the sights and sounds of present day South Africa.
Robert Kennedy’s visit gave opponents of Apartheid -- both black and white -- hope and courage to challenge the Apartheid system at a time when they felt isolated and few in the outside world knew what was happening in South Africa. His visit also highlighted the parallels in the fight against racism in South Africa and in the United States, where Martin Luther King Jr., had linked the struggle for Civil Rights with the fight against Apartheid.RFK IN THE LAND OF APARTHEID
follows Kennedy in South Africa during the five-day visit, including his famous “Day of Affirmation” speech at the University of Cape Town on June 6, 1966. The speech is generally considered to be the greatest speech of Robert Kennedy’s career. One paragraph, featuring the “ripple of hope”, is among the most quoted in American politics and appears on Kennedy’s gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery:
"It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."
Another high point of the film is Kennedy’s meeting with one of the giants of South African and African history – the banned President of the African National Congress and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chief Albert Luthuli, who was living under house arrest in a remote rural area. The film travels with RFK to Soweto, the largest black township, where he meets thousands of people and gives voice to Chief Luthuli’s call for a free South Africa
The film includes interviews with those that accompanied or met with Kennedy on his trip, as well as with Edward Kennedy, and an original soundtrack by American musician Jason Moran.
Robert Kennedy’s actions and words in South Africa were important at the time for one other reason – he publicly challenged the dominant Cold War ideology that anti-Communism should be the only basis for determining American foreign policy, even if it meant supporting repressive regimes. Kennedy demonstrated how it was possible to promote human rights and democracy in an undemocratic society, while engaging in an honest discourse on America's own historical problems and successes.RFK IN THE LAND OF APARTHEID
tells an important story that is relevant to the ongoing struggles for democracy, justice and human rights around the world today.LISTEN TO THE NPR "ALL THINGS CONSIDERED" PROGRAM ON THE FILM
The companion web site includes information about the film and extensive background and historical materials related to Kennedy’s trip and South Africa, and several guides:www.rfksafilm.orgHigh School and College Classroom Guides
Reviews and Festivals"Highly Recommended. Not only is the content of this film enlightening and stirring, it is also masterfully delivered. The audience gains perspective on the practice of apartheid, gains a true understanding of Kennedy’s brilliant skill as an orator, and learns his beliefs on race relations. It is the pervasive intertwining of these major themes that makes this film remarkable."
— Educational Media Reviews Online
— Boston Globe
"A remarkable gem. A film that was begging to be made.”
— Encounters International Film Festival
"For the past several years I have used your documentary for my classes. It is truly amazing. I had taught the 'Ripple of Hope' speech prior to your documentary coming out, but your documentary brought it alive in a way that I could not. It is simply a beautiful work in every way."
— Greg Dommisse, U.S. History Teacher, James River High School
"This fascinating and powerful documentary film captures beautifully a small but momentous slice of the parallel struggles for equality, dignity and human rights in the United States and South Africa. We are reminded not only of how these two national struggles intersected nearly half a century ago, but also how -- to paraphrase Robert F. Kennedy's own words in South Africa -- each individual, standing up for an ideal, can send out a ripple of hope, and millions of these small ripples coming together can eventually 'sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.' "
— Larry Diamond, Director, Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law, Hoover Institution & Freeman Spogli Institute, Stanford University
"The film…conveys wonderfully the character of Robert Kennedy: the mixture of courage, empathy and a curious element of self-mockery -- the sly grin at himself. In addition to portraying Kennedy at one of the signal times of his life, it leaves this viewer with an aching sense of what we lost with his death. It also gives a grim, compelling picture of what apartheid in South Africa was like. I do not think there was another political figure, American or otherwise, who would have gone into Soweto and plunged into the crowd as he did."
— Anthony Lewis, former New York Times reporter and op-ed columnist.
“As someone who was personally involved in and effected by Robert Kennedy’s visit to South Africa, I can attest to the authenticity of the film. It is a terrific documentary, full of interest and variety, wonderfully paced, and scattered with fascinating nuggets of information and flashes of humor and pathos. It really captures the visit, the man, the place, and the time.”
— Ian Robertson, former President, National Union of South African Students, 1966
“It's a fantastic story, and you tell it with great insight and delicacy. The intertwining of the SA and USA stories was done that way too -- gently suggestive, without being overdone. Kennedy came through beautifully, and I think we saw how, if it was a life-changing event for many South Africans, it was too for him.”
— Professor Stephen Clingman, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
BROADCAST ON PBS, SABC, Africa Channel UK, Al Jazeera
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard University
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Robert Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights and the
Leon Sullivan Foundation
The United Nations, Geneva
Canaan Baptist Church, Harlem
Albert Luthuli Museum, Groutville, South Africa
South African universities: Cape Town, Kwazulu/Natal, Stellenbosch, Witwatersrand
Vermont International Film Festival
Sedona International Film Festival
Durban International Film Festival
Encounters International Documentary Film Festival
Bologna Human Rights Nights Film Festival