TV review – When We Were Black: A fist in the air

2014-10-30 18:45

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WhenWe Were Black


Thursday 8.30pm

The first season of film maker Khalo Matabane’s miniseries When We Were Black was deemed by the SA Film and Television Awards (Saftas) to be the best TV drama series of 2007.

The story of love and politics in Soweto in 1976 was the talk of the township when it was first screened. Viewers loved the bungling romantic escapades of Fistos (Matli Mohapeloa) and Casper (Motlatsi Mafatshe).

Mafatshe went on to win the best supporting actor award at the Saftas for his role as a teen who was always in trouble.

The true success of WhenWe Were Black was how it revealed a bygone era in all its facets. It managed to draw audiences to the 1970s through marabi music, miniskirts, bell-bottoms, androgynous hippies, the smoking trains and the smoke-filled air of a township in turmoil. It brought back memories of a dark past and also managed to keep us entertained with the theatrics of Fistos and his schoolmates.

It was loved so much that a repeat of the first season was the fourth-most watched TV show in the country earlier this year.

So what’s the second season of WhenWe Were Black like?

In essence, little has changed, but the series now has six episodes, it’s a decade later and the setting is Langa in the Western Cape. The many political uprisings in the township drive the plot, picking up where the student uprisings of 1976 left off.

Mandisa (Zandile Madliwa), unaware of her bandmates’ political affiliations, joins an all-male pop group. She is set to become the next Brenda Fassie, but her journey to superstardom is bumpy as music, romance and politics collide and turn her world upside down.

The season plays out in Cape Town’s darkest hours. Political tension is palpable and even churches are not a place of sanctity as apartheid agents are rounding up the youth of Cape Town after the police station bombings of 1986. A state of emergency is declared after the Langa Massacre, where workers, students, youngsters and the unemployed rise up against apartheid.

The series shows how music was a weapon against apartheid, but also uses it as a compelling means of unpacking its characters’ secret lives as political operatives.

It might not be as captivating as the first instalment, but that’s sequels for you.

I haven’t yet fallen in love with the new characters, but there’s no doubt that young actress Madliwa has arrived.

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