Docpoint – Helsinki Documentary Film Festival


This Is National Wake

” It wasn’t just a band, it was a movement. The country was ready for a revolution.” This is how Ivan Kadey, the guitarist and songwriter of the South African band National Wake, remembers his band, which drew attention to and confronted the country’s apartheid policy. Combining punk, ska, reggae and other music styles, National Wake was the first biracial band that hit the South African charts. 

The band was started in 1976 in the wake of the Soweto riots, which gathered major international attention. The riots were led by students who were infuriated by the proposals to strengthen the role of the Afrikaans language in education. National Wake became a mouthpiece for the protest movement, as it directed its powerful message against various forms of apartheid. However, opposing apartheid in the autocratic police state was a recipe for problems – as was the band’s multiracial composition. 

This Is National Wake recounts the story of the band, navigating under the pressure of personal and social contradictions. The story unfolds through archival footage and interviews with the band’s surviving members and their friends. The old Super 8 films convey a colourful picture not only of the band’s path, but also of the atmosphere in South Africa in the early 1980s. The film has received an award and two honourable mentions at film festivals in the United States, Mexico, and the UK.

Matti Ylönen

The director Mirissa Neff is present in the screening on Sat, Feb 4.

Language: English
Subtitles: no subtitles
Length: 66 min
Age Limit: K12
Year: 2022
Production Country: USA, South Africa

Director: Mirissa Neff
Producer: Mirissa Neff, Joshua Jelly-Schapiro
Production Company: Near Odessa, XTR
Distribution Company: XTR (Worldwide Sales), Raina (Film Festival Distribution)
Editing: Doug Lenox, Mirissa Neff
Cinematographer: Philip Bell, Nadine Kadey, Robin Muir
Sound Design: Tom Paul