Reviews - Statements and more

Reviews - Statements and more
Sipho Mngqibsa
Hilda Phoswayo - Man was killed by the police
Vusumzi Mcongo - The documentary changed his life
Elias Mzamo - Worked at Robben Island Museum

Neo Lekgotla laga Ramoupi

Researcher Robben Island Museum 2000-2003
PhD History Student Howard University,
Washington DC

The beauty of Back Home, for me, is that it tells the story of Robben Island plainly and directly without trying to make it appear differently from what life was really like for political prisoners during the early 1960s and in 1970s. Back Home is an extraordinary journey by three former ordinary political prisoners who had the courage to return to work in their former prison when Robben Island became a National Monument and Museum in post-apartheid South Africa.

It is a story of three men: two elderly men, Tata Sindile Mngqibisa and Tata Elias Mzamo, were imprisoned on the island in 1963, an extremely brutal period in the history of Robben Island. Their voices speak frankly about their own experience of the cruelty and at the same time lack bitterness. The other man, middle-aged, is Bra Vusumzi Mcongo, who landed on Robben Island in 1978. Their story takes a totally different angle from all the documentaries that I have watched on the history of Robben Island. I think it is unique: All three men are not famous in the political prisoner community of Robben Island; they belong to political parties that their histories and contribution on Robben Island have not yet been told properly; and not everyone would return to the place of their captivity to work and make a contribution to a free South Africa - all three men came back.

All three men talk about serving proudly on Robben Island for a cause they were convinced its time had come, but they do not end there. Through their eyes, they let us see that suffering cleanses the soul.

Back Home does not leave out the wound that imprisonment inflicts on the family. Tata Mngqibisa left a son who was too young to comprehend why he was fatherless among his peers. The son was only able to see and struggle to reconnect with his father when he was released after 15 years. This piece is heartbreaking, especially that Tata Mngqibisa passed away during the production stage of this documentary. Back Home is dedicated to his memory. Bra Vusumzi was too young when he was imprisoned, but he had left a beautiful young girlfriend in his hometown of Port Elizabeth. Robben Island was not strong enough to end their love for each other. She endured the long distance travel to visit him on the island, and when he was freed after ten years the couple was married. They have two children and live on Robben Island. Just listening to Mrs. Mcongo talking about her patience, it makes you believe to believe in love, true love.

Tata Mzamo, just like his comrade Tata Mngqibisa, left a young daughter. Fortunately, his time in prison was shorter, but (after additional 15 years of banishment) still he was faced with the challenge of explaining to a girl where her father has been all those years when she needed him the most. The disruption of family life is moving and if it teaches us anything, it should be that political imprisonment affected, more than any thing, the families.

Back Home - Roots of a New South Africa moved me. My wife, Chunku, saw it first before me in Cape Town in the company of Tata Mzamo, Bra Vusumzi, Marc Kobler (director) and others. Immediately she called me in Washington DC, and said "our son, Modimâ Oratile, is going to love the history of his country." If the generation of our son - just turning a year in May - this year is going to appreciate the opportunities offered by a post-apartheid South Africa, I am certain that his generation and that is yet to be born will find the Roots of a New South Africa in Back Home.

Marc Köbler, documentary maker of this film, should be applauded for the courage to ask these three men to share their own stories of Robben Island with us.

I dedicate this piece to Tata Elias Mzamo, who recently retired from his work on Robben Island Museum. This makes him the first former political prisoner to leave Robben Island Museum as a result of retirement.


Fleur McFarlane

The Exclusive Books Market
Cape Town

I have watched Back Home in its entirety and was thoroughly absorbed. This is a professional documentary of high calibre, well edited and well paced, with striking visuals. Three very different men tell their stories, which are both particular and universal in their details. They speak simply and undramatically of their experiences and do not dwell on horrors. This creates a moving and original statement of our history of the past forty years, told by men who are not famous, but who suffered as much for their convictions and integrity. Although we see the tragedy of human cruelty, the overwhelming feeling is one of hope and the triumph of the human spirit, with a sober but optimistic conclusion.


Sipho Mnqgibisa

Son of ex-prisoner of Robben Island Prison

...I repeatedly view it as it is very interesting. I will be showing it to my family and sure they also will love and like it. Thanks again for the efforts and all the troubles it took you and your german friends through but at the end you achived your goal...


Hilda Phoswayo

Trauma Center Cowley House

For me and my family it is very good to have it (the tape) so that the next generation will know what was meant by apartheid and the so called special branches. Yes the people that are involved in the film are survivors, and the places are very important let alone that there are so many changes most of those places now are used for money-making. You did a very great job getting it together. There are also thousands of people or victims who never came forward with their stories but surely the documentary brings the feeling of not being acknowledged, and it made us know and understand the fences between 'democratic government' and the so-called 'apartheid regime'. We've just celebrated the 10 years of our democratic government, and we've just voted and the ANC won again. Thank you very much, Crew 4 You, and thank you very much, Marc Köbler. Hoping that we'll see you again in SA and keep it up with the good work.


Vusumsi Mcongo

Ex-prisoner Robben Island Prison

Thanks to Marc and Crew 4 You for producing the film. There are so many people involved in the struggle, not just us. We have stayed with Mandela. The film has changed our lives because many people come to us now. My family and I hope this film will reach every corner of the country and spread globally.


Christo Brand

Ex-warder Robben Island Prison

A must for everybody to see this. Especially because people who have taken place in this movie have passed away. Also for people who want to know the experiences of prisoners who are not well known to the public but who have taken part in the struggle and who have never been recognized.