The Top 5 Movies to Watch Before Traveling to Zambia/South Africa

Disgrace (2008) Starring John Malkovich

83% on Rotten Tomatoes

Adapted from a novel by Nobel Prize Winning Author JM Coetzee, this movie follows a disgraced English Professor from South Africa and touches on many post-apartheid social issues. Malkovich stars as Professor Lurie, a promiscuous man who engages in many illicit sexual relationships. This tendency become an issue when he is accusing of raping a student and leaves town to live with his daughter on her farm. On the farm, Lurie looks for peace and simplicity, but difficult situations seems to surround his life. While this movie isn’t easy, the content is masterfully created and features overtones of black-white issues in South Africa. Certainly worth the watch.

Invictus (2009) Starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon

76% on Rotten Tomatoes

Invictus tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s (Freeman) partnership with South African National Rugby player Francois Pienaar (Damon) on their journey to unite a nation. Just years post-apartheid, South Africa is scheduled to host the Rugby World Cub, despite facing long odds. Mandela reaches our to Pienaar to use the World Cup as an opportunity to unite black and white South Africans. This story details their close relationship and points to the power of sport.

Lucky (2017)

23% on Rotten Tomatoes

Don’t let the low rating deter you- this is a tear jerker. Meet Lucky, a 10-year-old boy growing up with a Zulu tribe. After his mother falls ill, he’s sent to live with his uncle in the city- who isn’t ecstatic about his new responsibilities. Life with his uncle is uneasy, so Lucky seeks mentorship from an elderly Indian woman- a taboo friendship for its time. Together they search for Lucky’s father.


The Bang Bang Club (2010) Starring Ryan Phillippe, Malin Akerman, and Taylor Kitsch

49% on Rotten Tomatoes

The Bang Bang Club depicts the story of four conflict photographers in South Africa capturing the tensions between ANC and IFP forces. The’re called “Bang Bang” due to their constant proximity to gunfire and violence. This true story displays the risk these photographers took for their careers and to tell a story. In real life, each other their stories ended in tragedy.

District 9 (2009)

90% on Rotten Tomatoes

My personal favorite, District 9 masterfully combines science fiction with contemporary themes. Aliens, called “prawns”, force an emergency landing of their spaceship just above Johannesburg. The story picks up 28 years after their landing- the prawns live in a refugee camp and are treated inhumanely by black and white South Africans. “Interviews” with citizens detail the hatred towards their alien visitors, displaying that black and white South Africans can potentially agree on something- hating another group of people. The story evolves as we follow the main character, an awkwardly timid man hired to give eviction notices to certain prawns. His story quickly changes, as he begins to experience the hatred and fear felt by his adversaries.