Movies, books, and songs to capture the essence of Bangkok and get you in the mood for travel

Movies

Long Night’s Journey into Day (2000)

Sundance award-winning documentary about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission focusing on the case of Amy Biehl, the American Fulbright scholar and anti-apartheid activist stabbed to death in Cape Town’s Guguletu township.

Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony (2002)

Some of South Africa’s top musicians including Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba, and Hugh Masekela star in this documentary on the role of music as a force against apartheid.

Proteus (2003)

Robben Island’s penal colony is the moody setting for this interracial gay love story based on a true story from the 18th century.

U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (2005)

Bizet’s opera transported to the Cape Town suburb of Khayelitsha. Winner of a Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear award and performed in the native South African isiXhosa language.

Goodbye Bafana (2007)

Joseph Fiennes plays James Gregory, warder to Dennis Haysbert’s Nelson Mandela, in this powerful drama that tracks the changing relationship between the two during their time on Robben Island.

Books

“Buckingham Palace”, District Six, by Richard Rive (1986)

Five homes located in the heart of the multicultural District Six area—before its destruction during apartheid—are the focus for this short, evocative novel.

The Cardinals, by Bessie Head (1993)

Published after her death, this short novel draws on Bessie Head’s experiences as a young journalist and “colored” woman in Cape Town during the early 1960s.

Long Walk to Freedom, by Nelson Mandela (1994)

The Nobel Prize-winning statesman Nelson Mandela recounts his remarkable life; the first draft was written while he was detained on Robben Island.

Mother to Mother, by Sindiwe Magona (1998)

The real-life murder of Amy Biehl, a white American, in the Cape Flat provides the basis for this fictional imagining of how the mother of the killer views the event.

Country of My Skull, by Antjie Krog (1998)

The respected poet and radio journalist Antjie Krog records the harrowing details of the postapartheid-era Truth and Reconciliation Commission as it performed its cathartic work.

Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee (1999)

The second of J. M. Coetzee’s novels to bag a Booker Prize charts a Capetonian professor's disastrous move to the rural Eastern Cape after a scandalous affair with a student.

Rights of Desire, by André Brink (2000)

Prolific South African author André Brink crafts a dark tale of incest, rape, and murder set in his hometown.

The Number, by Jonny Steinberg (2004)

Dog-eat-dog world of Cape Town’s gangs and its brutal prison system are portrayed through the eyes of a former gang member.

Moss, by Mary Watson (2007)

Collection of short stories by a young Capetonian writer, including the Caine Award-winning tale Jungfrau—a child’s view of apartheid.

Music

Compilations:

Nomvula, Freshlyground

The multiracial group Freshlyground, poster kids of the new South Africa, lay out a funky, soul-stirring selection of Afro-fusion tunes.

Healing Destination, Goema Captains of Cape Town

Jazz composer Mac McKenzie is the lynchpin of the Goema Captains of Cape Town, an orchestra of talented musicians including saxophonist Robbie Jansen.

Caught in the Loop, Goldfish

Goldfish—David Poole and Dominic Peters—mix up samples, a groove box, and a variety of instruments to create is mood-perfect sound track for a groovy night out in the Mother City.

Cape Town Revisited, Abdullah Ibrahim

Jazz pianist Abdullah Ibrahim plays some of his most famous pieces in this live concert performance at the Spier wine estate in 1997.

Kat and the Kings, David Kramer

David Kramer’s award-winning musical about Cape Town’s jazz scene captures the infectious rhythms of the city.

Classic Songs:

Jazz is the lifeblood of the Cape Town music scene, but you’ll also discover many other musical styles here from electronica to rock, hip-hop, and kwaito—the local R&B/dance music:

  1. “District Six” by Abdullah Ibrahim
  2. “Castles in the Sky” by Freshlyground
  3. “Healing Destination” by Goema Captains of Cape Town
  4. “Bobby Come Back” by Robin Auld
  5. “Vu’indlela” by Brenda Fassie
  6. “Mandela Bay” by Jonathan Butler
  7. “Mannenberg” by Abdullah Ibrahim
  8. “Feel It” by Arno Carstens
  9. “Mindz Ablaze” by Godessa
  10. “Neva Again” by Prophets of Da City

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