Back Home - Roots of a new South Africa

Ex-Prisonsers return to Robben Island
Crew 4 You; Köbler, Marc
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Coproduction: Crew 4 You GmbH and Marc Köbler
Support: Robben Island Museum & Robben Island Mayibuye Archives
Germany, 2004
DVD, 115/92/59 minutes, 16:9, Stereo, English

Synopsis - Ex-Prisonsers return to Robben Island:

Today, more than one decade after the end of apartheid, the documentary BACK HOME tells the story of three ex-prisoners who returned to their island of fate. An unusual new reflection of contemporary history. An emotional odyssey through the past, a visual journey and a behind-the-scenes-investigation, narrated by the victims and their families.

BACK HOME is the story of three men who came back to live and to work on the island which once changed their lives, as well as the history of South Africa. A story of different generations, a story of a common fate and a common goal.

Robben Island, the small island off the coast of Cape Town, is one of the most historic islands in the world. In the 1960s it was declared a high-security prison by the apartheid regime.

Tata Sindile Mngqibisa was one of the first to be deported to the island in 1963, even before the most well-known prisoner Nelson Mandela arrived - who later became the first black president of South Africa.Sindile was forced to build the prison with his own hands. For 15 years he was to fight for his survival on Robben Island.

Tata Elias Mzamo, a fellow-prisoner of Sindile, remembers the brutal treatment of prisoners and tells us about their survival strategies. In the new South Africa he returns, every morning, to Robben Island, the place of pain and suffering that is also a place of remembrance and of the strength that it still radiates.

Vusumzi Mcongo was jailed in 1978. Today he lives, together with his family, in the little village on the island which used to be the home of the warders, some hundred yards away from the former prison. What is it that makes them go back? Their attitudes and motives surprise. They have lived different lives but they are united; united by an island, a land, and an idea.

“In a way, I can say, I am back home in freedom, but really the road is still long.“
Tata Elias Mzamo

The team:

Marc Köbler (director) started in 1988 as assistant director at the DÜSSELDORFER SCHAUSPIELHAUS. In 1990 start as continuity / script for a 6-episode Science-Fiction series: „Project Aphrodite“ (Locations: Germany, Spain and Japan).

He continued his work as Assitent Director for different TV features. 1992 he started studying at the Academy of Media Art, Cologne/Germany, Dept. film & television. Graduated from there with a post-graduate degree: Diploma for audiovisual media - with examination. Since 1996 taken part in various pro-workshops e.g. Cine director certificate - Hollywood Film Institute. Since more one decade also in Cape Town, assisting the realization of abroad film projects in South Africa . Today he is working as a Director and 2nd Unit Director.

Marc Köbler has been living and working in South Africa for meanwhile 11 years. His first-hand experiences since the changes in South Africa along with the first free elections, as well as his cultural and social knowledge of the country has offered the potential of presenting the point of view and the ideas of South African society in an authentic and fascinating manner. Personal contacts to the former prisoners of Robben Island on the one hand, as well as the research of the island on the other hand, facilitated a number of initial interviews.

Martina Meilwes (editor) started as technical assistant in 1987, and she has been working as video editor for nearly all German TV-programs from 1988 until today: TV-shows, documentaries, serials, commercials, image films for artists as well as for art museums. Since 1999 she is also active as live-cutter for many stations and productions. At the same time she kept studying the development of the various non-linear editing systems.

Johannes Imdahl (cameraman) studied theatre, film and TV in Bochum/Germany. He made his diploma as “camera (film / TV)” at Dortmund university. He today deals with movies, tv-movies, documentaries, dance movies, tv-serials, music-videos, short films.

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