While traveling in South Africa in 1959 to make a documentary about apartheid, Lionel Rogosin was so stunned by the searing racial intolerance and social and economic blight he encountered that he decided to incorporate his reactions into a dramatic feature. The result was Come Back, Africa. The film's shattering portrayal of the agony of a Zulu family's ultimate dislocation is truly revolutionary in its unblinking fury and pain-so much so that the film defined-and restores distinction to-the word "docudrama." Collaborating with local writers and eventual cast members Bloke Modisane and Lewis N'kosi and employing the techniques for shooting undercover that he developed while filming his groundbreaking, Oscar®-nominated 1957 documentary, On the Bowery, Rogosin shot in Sophiatown as it was being torn down. Forced by the contemporary political situation to smuggle much of his film out of the country as he shot, Rogosin weaves explosive documentary footage into a dramatic narrative depicting the plight of a migrant worker (Zacharia Makeba) and his family's desperate attempts to deal with being uprooted from their agricultural tradition, and thrust into an urban universe, savaged by a hideously repressive regime. Nearly thirty years passed before Come Back, Africa, which was the first film to use the Zulu language interchangeably with English, screened in South Africa. A new archival restoration from the Cineteca di Bologna, funded by the Officina Cinema Sud-Est Foundation and carried out with the support of Anthology Film Archives, New York.
Lionel Rogosin (1924-2000) was a filmmaker and cinematographer best known for using non-professional actors in naturalistic settings and telling true-to-life stories that were firmly grounded in local hardscrabble realities. This native New Yorker's first documentary, On the Bowery (1957), chronicled the harsh realities of life on Gotham's skid row and was nominated for an Academy Award®. Unable to find a theater to exhibit Come Back, Africa, he opened a Greenwich Village arthouse, the Bleecker Street Cinema, which became one of New York's top repertory cinemas for more than two decades. Other acclaimed works of Rogosin include the riveting, anti-war documentary Good Times, Wonderful Times (1968).