Begging for change: engaging with Johannesburg in post-apartheid South African film

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The city of Johannesburg is globally identified with issues of inequality, prejudice and transformation. This identification is reinforced by the city's representation in film, in particular those of the post-apartheid era, which tend to emphasize the city's problems. The transformative power of living in Johannesburg, in particular how this experience impacts and shifts the personalities and experiences of the city's inhabitants, is often ignored. This thesis sets out to explore and analyse the consequences of engagement with Johannesburg by exploring the impact of the city on the protagonists in four post-apartheid Johannesburg films. The films that will be analysed - Jump the Gun (1996), Hijack Stories (2000), Tsotsi (2005), and District 9 (2009) - portray life in post-apartheid Johannesburg. These films were chosen because they have narratives that illustrate character transformation through exposure to the city of Johannesburg. The decision to focus on films that depict this era is deliberate, and I have done this in order to identify a new way of living in Johannesburg that is unique to this time period. In addition, the spread of years highlights how the experience of living in Johannesburg has changed over time.

Includes bibliographical references.