1. Entertainment

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:


was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

Most Emailed Articles

Democratic Loyalty Quiz

THE CRADOCK FOUR: Notorious Political Murders in South Africa

Submit an Entry: What Documentary Are You Working On?

By shadowfilms

THE CRADOCK FOUR: Notorious Political Murders in South Africa

A recreation of the murders in the winter mist

Links to your Websites and Support Groups' Websites




Documentary Title and Basics:

"The Cradock Four" (feature version) and "The Cradock Murders: Matthew Goniwe and the Demise of Apartheid" (52-min TV version).

Four men were assassinated by an Apartheid police hit squad in 1985, becoming one of SA's most notorious political murders. The murders were a turning point, triggering a state of emergency and led to the release of Mandela within five years.

Made over 7 years with own funds, finally a South African-French co-production, release date June 2010 (25th anniversary). Location: SA. Crew: David Forbes (Prod/Dir/DOP) Michel Noll (Prod - Fr) Post prod: France. Distribution with ICTV (France). High Def 16:9

More About the Documentary's Story And Issues:

"The Cradock Four" represents a dive into the atrocious affair of the murder of four young freedom fighters, Matthew Goniwe and his companions, who had challenged the Apartheid system. Late on the winter night of 27 June 1985, South African Security Forces set up a roadblock near Port Elizabeth. Four activists, including their leader, Matthew Goniwe, a popular teacher from the small South African town of Cradock, were in the ambushed car. They had been secretly targeted for assassination by Apartheid’s Generals. The policemen abducted Matthew Goniwe, Fort Calata, Sparrow Mkonto and Sicelo Mhlauli and murdered them in cold blood. To cover their tracks they mutilated and set fire to the bodies. The burnt remains of “the Cradock Four", as they came to be known, were later found near the Port Elizabeth suburb of Bluewater Bay.

The murders became one of Apartheid’s murkiest and controversial episodes. The film will allow the viewer to perceive the oppressive climate of the sombre racist regime. It will show how the system broke the freedom and the dreams, then the lives of these four young men. We shall look at both inquiries into the murders (in 1989 and 1992), as well as into the investigations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which denied amnesty to the killers. By telling the story from both sides, using archive materials and dramatic recreations we will approach the ideals which led Matthew and his friends to support the then-banned African National Congress (ANC). Matthew was organising the underground structures of the ANC's armed wing, the "Spear of the Nation". He gave this support at the price of his life, but it would later contribute to the demise of Apartheid.

Film's style incorporates four main visual elements: interviews, archive, dramatic recreations and lyrical visuals, woven tightly together to produce a chilling story that moves with pace.

The mountains that surround Cradock in the arid semi-desert of the Karoo are a character, the grass and the windmills a witness to the atrocities and the windmills and wind signifying the spiritual ancestors whose blood soaked the soil.

Powerful high contrast visuals, often set at night, create a real sense of the menace of Apartheid and the power arraigned against our protagonists.

Original composed music provides a haunting score for many of the major scenes.

Archive of Matthew Goniwe talking about Apartheid and education, and many scenes of police brutality.

Lessons Learned

  • have deep pockets
  • persevere, persevere, persevere, persevere, persevere
  • co-production is complicated, do your homework
  • be flexible, and be prepared to see things from other viewpoints
  • don't mortgage your own house for the film
  • never, ever give up
  • set high standards and maintain them
  • ALWAYS record sound when you record picture
  • plan meticulously and visualise the end product
  • don't underestimate the script/structure work required for editing

Jennifer Merin, About.com Documentaries, says:

What a fascinating subject for a documentary. I think it's one that will engage audiences around the world who joined the anti-Apartheid movement, which is so brilliantly chronicled in Connie Field's Have You Heard About Johannesburg?. I can't wait to see your film. I am also impressed by the way you've shared your experiences and advice to other filmmakers. Thanks for that. If you would like to start a community discussion about The Cradock Four, where readers can respond to your comments and follow your updates about the progress on the film, please create a The Cradock Four page on our Forum.
Explore Documentaries
By Category
    documentariesDocumentariesentertainmentEntertainmentbb5026b9ad000153f980144f3b553960490cf734cc015b9ahttp://documentaries.about.comod526F6F7430014terminatedJennifer MerindocumentariesguideLg800033zNIP11970-01-0110/od/index.htm0526F6F741approved/od
  1. About.com
  2. Entertainment
  3. Documentaries

©2015 About.com. All rights reserved.