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Filming the Edgy City: Cinematic Narrative and Urban Form in Postapartheid Johannesburg

From its early years to the present, Johannesburg has escaped the strictures of literary as well as civil decorum. The city has appeared to planners and artists alike to be unimaginable as well as unmanageable. While the deep divisions of apartheid Johannesburg inspired the clear-cut conflicts of anti-apartheid drama, the more ambiguous fractures of the contemporary city have lent themselves to the creation of vivid but elliptical narratives of shifting alliances more suited to the montage and mise en scène of cinema. A few feature-length films with international distribution, such as Jump the Gun (1996) and Fools (1997), have generated multiple readings to the exclusion of smaller, more experimental films such as The Foreigner (1997) and A Drink in the Passage (2002) or the television series The Line (1994) and Gaz'Lam (2002 ff.) whose association with television, whether through funding or production for serial broadcast, has apparently kept them from critical view. This article redresses that balance with close analysis and contextual relocation of cinematic and televisual representations of Johannesburg, the edgy city.

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