Sarafina! (film)

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Two black women stand in front of the continent of Africa. The sun is rising with several figures dancing in the background as a flock of doves fly away.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDarrell James Roodt
Produced byAnant Singh
Written by
Based onSarafina!
by Mbongeni Ngema
Music by
CinematographyMark Vicente
Edited by
  • Peter Hollywood
  • Sarah Thomas
Distributed by
Release date
  • 11 May 1992 (1992-05-11) (Cannes)
  • 18 September 1992 (1992-09-18) (U.S.)
  • 9 October 1992 (1992-10-09) (South Africa)
  • 15 January 1993 (1993-01-15) (UK)
  • 3 March 1993 (1993-03-03) (France)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
South Africa
United Kingdom
Box office$7.3 million[1]

Sarafina! is a 1992 musical drama film based on Mbongeni Ngema's 1987 musical of the same name. The film was directed by Darrell Roodt and written by Ngema and William Nicholson, and stars Leleti Khumalo, Miriam Makeba, John Kani, Ngema, and Whoopi Goldberg; Khumalo reprises her role from the stage performance.

An international co-production of the South Africa, United States, France, and the United Kingdom, the film premiered on May 11, 1992, at the Cannes Film Festival.


The plot centres on students involved in the Soweto Uprising, in opposition to the implementation of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in schools.

The character Sarafina (Leleti Khumalo) feels shame at her mother's (Miriam Makeba) acceptance of her role as domestic servant in a white household in apartheid South Africa, and inspires her peers to rise up in protest, especially after her inspirational teacher, Mary Masombuka (Whoopi Goldberg) is imprisoned. In the opening scene, Sarafina is seen talking while staring at Nelson Mandela's picture, at the time the South African icon was still imprisoned. In a later scene Sarafina is again talking while staring at Mandela's picture on the wall, criticizing him for being gone for a long time and not responding to the nation's pleas, idolising him as someone who can change the horrific situation that South Africa is in.



The film was shot on location in Soweto and Johannesburg, South Africa. Darrell Roodt directed, with the script by Mbongeni Ngema and William Nicholson. Leleti Khumalo reprised her role as Sarafina, with Whoopi Goldberg as Mary Masembuko and Miriam Makeba as Angeline. Companies involved included the British Broadcasting Corporation. In the United States, the MPAA, rated the film PG-13 for scenes of apartheid-driven violence. The extended version, released in 1995, was rated R for strong scenes of violence.

For Whoopi Goldberg, this was a project she was determined to be a part of; in order to convince the executives at Disney to make this film she agreed to reprise her role as Dolores Van Cartier in Sister Act 2: Back In The Habit, which Disney was keen to make since the original had brought in $231,605,150 worldwide.[2]



The film was screened out of competition at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival.[3] Whoopi Goldberg mentioned on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah (who said the movie was a hit in South Africa), that the LA riots due to Rodney King happened at the same time that Sarafina! was released which resulted in the movie not being so well known in the US. The film holds a 60% "certified fresh" score on Rotten Tomatoes.[4]


The film was released on 18 September 1992. Sarafina! was re-released in South Africa on 16 June 2006 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Soweto uprising in Soweto. The re-mastered director’s cut is not very different from the original, except for the inclusion of one scene that was cut from the original, between Leleti Khumalo (Sarafina) and Miriam Makeba (Sarafina's mother), which includes a musical number "Thank You Mama".

Box office[edit]

Sarafina! grossed $7,306,242 in North American box office receipts.[5]


  1. ^ Sarafina! at Box Office Mojo
  2. ^ "Sister Act". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  3. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Sarafina". Retrieved 9 September 2017.
  4. ^ Sarafina! (1992), retrieved 4 March 2020
  5. ^ "Sarafina! (1992) - Box Office Mojo". Retrieved 9 September 2017.

External links[edit]