Making the Grades
Sarafina is a young girl living in one of the designated black townships of South Africa. Set in the midst of the apartheid struggle, Sarafina is influenced by the powerful teachings of Mary (Whoopi Goldberg), who feels she needs to teach her students historical truths not found in the government approved texts. As Sarafina observes her friends, many of them openly rebelling against the government regime, and the opinions of Mary, she tries to come to conclusions about what is right, and what is the best way to try and obtain freedom.
Although criticised by others for not having a definite hard and fast conclusion, I feel the film does a wonderful job of showing the complexities of what is often presented by the media as a simple situation. Sarafina is a girl who, like many of us, cannot come to her own conclusion as to what is right and wrong. Unlike most movies, the writer does not do the job of making our minds up for us.
Oddly enough, at the cries of other critics, the producers of this film have re-edited the end many times to try and bring it to a more definite decision. I am glad they have not succeeded with their task.
Be warned that this film contains a great deal of violence, and is not suitable for younger children. However, the violence, in my opinion, is not gratuitous and represents a realistic situation.
There is one fatal flaw in the film. At one point a gang of black kids, including Sarafina, is involved in the brutal murder of a black policeman. After setting the live man on fire, they watched him burn to death. Yet they were never directly punished for this murder, and instead were punished for their opression of the white regime. We know that the soldiers murdering schoolchildren are wrong, but the film seems to justify the actions of the youths murdering because the policeman was an informant to the whites. Murder is murder, and this lack of justice is a tragic decision in the screenplay.