2015 saw the students in Johannesburg’s Wits University start campaigning against the ever-increasing fees for their education. #FeesMustFall soon extended to other universities and issues, including the #RhodesMustFall campaign that spread outside of South Africa with protests against the legacy of imperialist Cecil Rhodes occurring in the UK and the US. “Everything Must Fall” covers some of the critical events and trends of the protest movement that became the biggest uprising in post-independence South Africa. The film also becomes a much-needed musing on what to do when you can’t afford to study: a question that’s heavy on the minds of young people virtually everywhere.
As someone who has participated in protests and covered them, I know full well how complicated it is. You can never predict what turn in the fight the new day will bring. When to stop filming and start editing? What if your film is in post-production and then something huge happens that renders your narrative incomplete? Or, even worse, what if the ripples of the events disappear too quickly? Many factors lie outside of the creator’s scope yet strongly influence the final product. But as a creator, you also need to have a specific sort of integrity and foresight to make sure that your film doesn’t become outdated the minute it comes out.
“Everything must fall” is not the first film I’ve seen on the subject of the protests in South African universities. But it is the one that struck a delicate balance between observation, enthusiasm, and skepticism. The result is a comprehensive portrait of what the protest movement was, is, and will be. Of course, to be able to cover all bases and make an intersectional portrait of any campaign for change, one needs to wait at least a few dozen years. But even without much space for hindsight, Rashid Desai managed to chronicle FeesMustFall quite neatly. He was also able to make a film that doesn’t solely answer questions; it also asks them, and paves the way for future discussions and organizing.
Everything Must Fall, 2019
Director: Rashid Desai
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