Our much talked about feature documentary, made with Sabido Productions, explores the dramatic last year of apartheid. The film was broadcast numerous times on eNCA throughout Africa, as well as by eTV and the Netherlands’ VPRO.
In July 2014, the documentary won the audience award at the Durban International Film Festival. It also opened the Nobel Peace Laureate Youth Summit, and the Watch Africa Festival in Wales as part of the ‘Freedom Tour’ in the UK. It was also selected as the closing night film at the Encounters Documentary Film Festival.
1994: the bloody miracle was used as part of the Cypriot peace initiative and Boondogle Films has collaborated with the Nelson Mandela Foundation to screen the film at educational institutions throughout South Africa to initiate dialogue around democracy and the complexity of reconciliation.
PROJECT TITLE: 1994 – The Bloody Miracle
FORMAT: Feature Documentary
LOGLINE: 1994: The Bloody Miracle is an investigation into the resistors who tried to derail South Africa’s first democratic elections, pushing the country to the brink of civil war.
NARRATOR: John Kani
DIRECTORS: Meg Rickards & Bert Haitsma
PRODUCER: Paul Egan
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Chris Nicklin
EDITORS: Catherine Meyburgh & Luke Younge
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Sabido Productions & Boondogle Films
2014 marked the 20th anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic elections in 1994. It seems hard, though, to believe the ‘Mandela miracle’ nearly didn’t happen.
What history forgets is that during the last year of Apartheid, South Africa was on the brink of catastrophe, with certain groups intent on derailing the first free elections.
Now, for the first time, those responsible for countless deaths and widespread mayhem explain how they nearly brought the country to its knees. The film reveals white right wing plans for a military coup, and uncovers a plot to kidnap Mandela and the new leaders-in-waiting and imprison them in neighbouring Angola. Meanwhile the Zulu organisation Inkatha was locked in an ever more violent power struggle with the ANC. In certain areas, this feud turned to full-scale civil war. The filmmakers speak with eyewitnesses: survivors of massacres and bombings, who still bare the physical and emotional scars of that time.
What’s more – in an exclusive interview behind bars – hit squad commander Eugene de Kock lays bare the role of the Apartheid State in undermining the transition, and the complicity of those in the highest echelons of power.
In rare interviews, former President F.W. De Klerk and current President Jacob Zuma answer questions about the extent of this State complicity.
1994 is a chilling look at how far some hard men went to thwart democracy, but how they have now made an uneasy peace with the ‘Rainbow Nation’ in their own different ways.
Featuring stunning cinematography combined with unseen archival footage, a riveting music score, and narration by Dr John Kani, this landmark documentary will change the way people remember South Africa’s so-called miracle.
What the Audience Said
I was so moved by what you’ve put into the world. It is a remarkably even-handed portrait of a fanatical chapter in our history, apart from its sheer enjoyability and its professional merits. How strange that such a nasty, brutish piece of history could have produced a documentary that left me encouraged and uplifted — it’s quite beyond my understanding, and very much to your credit.
I have many vivid childhood memories from that time, but had never seen them woven into their historical context until last night, nor really appreciated how they related to the tangible but unexplained tensions around me. A beautiful documentary, an education, and a fresh perspective on both then and now!
Your film has extraordinary scope and depth. I’ve been revisiting images and moments ever since seeing it. The visual style and design opens up the story really beautifully. I loved the way you mixed new footage and archive, and the integration of the interviews. Which are bloody excellent by the way. Not easy people to access and mostly very media savvy I imagine. But you got them and you got something fresh out of them. Eugene de Kock is a standout. You managed to make a very complicated story accessible and engaging. It’s really a landmark. Well done!
I was sitting at the edge of my seat for the entire 90 minutes, I laughed, I cried and I held my breath. And I know I was not the only one. There are many scenes which have stayed with me and are playing over and over in my head. What a great choice of characters and what strong mothers and daughters you put on the screen! I am not a fan of re-enactments but they worked beautifully.
I’m no film critic, but I wanted to tell you I thought it was great and really gripping. For somebody who takes an interest in the ‘history of the present’ I thought to trod a perfect line between stuff we know and new, even unexpected material. A narrative like this can easily lapse into liberation platitudes, but I thought the film treated the material with a real acuity and incisiveness. It managed to avoid being partisan, sentimental or didactical. It trod deftly. I thought the epic narrative told through small tales was fantastic: Wolfaard’s daughter, the complex Daluxolo. And the Robert Altmanesque intersections between them really tied it together: Daluxolo, Bop policeman, chillingly candid APLA guy. Even the ‘great men’ of history (Zuma, bloated and pockmarked De Klerk etc, indefatigable Buthalezi, landed Viljoen) weren’t overwhelming, they illuminated specific parts of the narrative. It made me think of the the randomness and capriciousness of history: a transition paid for in blood. Even the moments of concluding levity managed to avoid being cloying, the smile that flashes across De Kock’s face (what did you say to him?), the pragmatic ex-ISU policeman on his bike, the dutifully gun-totting parishioner…
Well done. It was a well told story with very compelling characters, considering how huge the story was. You found the right characters to drive and convey the narrative, although it was hard to look at Zuma and Maharaj in isolation to how far they’ve fallen. Judging by the tweets of the broadcast tonight, you guys reminded us of an almost forgotten story. It was a reminder of having to sneak at dawn to attend schools in suburbs from townships to avoid our school transport being bombed. Also a reminder of the weekly threats our school received from right wing organisations.
This film – in a powerful way – tells an inconvenient yet crucial truth. It presents an alternative reading to an often ‘glossed-over’ reality. It was especially touching for me because my older brother – died in that pre-election ‘94 Alexandra violence – so it scratched an old wound. We are here – and grateful and even more mad at the rot that pervades our everyday existence.