4 documentaries that will open your eyes to the struggle of what it means to be young in South Africa

The Hector Peterson memorial in Soweto.
The Hector Peterson memorial in Soweto.

It’s 16 June, Youth Day, and while it’s great to have a day off sometimes and get to honour our history by celebrating in our own different ways, we also have an obligation to look at the struggles of the youth from 1976 and the struggles of our youth today. 

Here is a list if documentaries you can watch to get a better understanding about our current and past situation.


A film by Sifiso Khanyile, UPRIZE! Is the story of the 1976 Soweto uprisings as told by the student leaders who were there when it happened. Told through the use of rare archive footage, haunting music and the personal accounts of those former student leaders, you get a glimpse into what it must have been like on that fateful day. 

READ MORE: QUIZ: How much do you know about June 16 1976?

The Flats

There are many places on the Cape Flats that are very dangerous and gang violence often sees children caught in the crossfire and many of the young people become part of these gangs to survive. Jake Oleson, a director from New York, released a 10-minute short documentary on what living on the Cape Flats is like for many people. Shot over three days, it gives a harrowing insight into gang violence in our communities. 

Surfing Soweto

A 2010 film directed by Sara Blecher, it’s a story of a group of alienated youth who surf trains in Soweto, dodging electrical cables while on top of trains. It features three young guys and tells their stories as well as the stories of the train surfers who weren’t so lucky.

Out Of This World

This is i-D’s latest documentary series where American rapper, performance artist and activist Mykki Blanco explores Johannesburg and queer culture as it exists in the city at a time when queer voices are constantly being silenced. Mykki meets various talented youth and young artists and talk about queer love in the face of adversity and when their culture doesn’t always agree with it. 

READ MORE: 5 things I would tell my 16 year old self today

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