This is National Wake traces the wild rise and tragic fall of a multiracial South African punk band, dubbed “the band that defied apartheid,” whose members risked everything to taste freedom. This debut feature, steeped in previously unseen footage of a 1970s anti-racist counterculture that few know existed, reveals a band whose music and memories comprise a profound meditation on how history is lived through art and in our minds.
In 1979, South Africa’s fascist regime kept blacks and whites separate and unequal. But three young men — Ivan Kadey, a white guitarist from Johannesburg’s Jewish side, and Gary and Punka Khoza, black sibling musicians from Soweto — dared to launch National Wake. In a time and place where it was illegal for them to play or live together, their band and its fans fought back with music, smashing every law to rebel — and filmed themselves doing so, with remarkable foresight and nerve, in astonishing Super 8.
Mirissa Neff is an African-American first-time filmmaker with a rich background in journalism and photography. Her work centers around themes of race, music, and the power of images to help people imagine new collective futures. She has worked as a producer and correspondent for PBS’s SOUND TRACKS, PBS’s QUICK HITS, National Geographic’s VOYAGER, and has reported for various public radio programs.
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