The great South African Playwright Athol Fugard, celebrates his 80th birthday today, Monday 11 June 2012.
This past Friday 8 June 2012, Sky Arts in the United Kingdom broadcast the first major documentary film on Athol Fugard to honour his 80th birthday. Entitled Falls the Shadow: The Life and Times of Athol Fugard, it was followed by a screening of the South African Academy Award-winning film Tsotsi – based on Fugard's novella and was introduced by Sir Anthony Sher. Sky Arts then screened the film of Fugard's Boesman and Lena, introduced by Dame Janet Suzman.
The Fugard Theatre Bioscope will screen the 100 minute documentary at the Fugard Theatre Bioscope on Monday 16 July 2012 to coincide with the season of Fugard's new play The Blue Iris, playing at the Fugard Theatre Studio from 4 – 28 July. The production forms part of the Fugard Theatre's celebrations of Fugard's 80th birthday year.
Falls the Shadow is directed by the multi-award winning British film-maker Tony Palmer and produced by Eric Abraham – founding producer of The Fugard Theatre – and British television executive David Elstein.
Athol Fugard is considered to be the world's greatest living playwright in the English language. Falls the Shadow: The Life and Times of Athol Fugard is a new film and is the first ever full-length profile of Fugard that explores his past, his influences, his artistic development and his continuing themes. At the centre of the film is an extensive interview with Athol Fugard.
The film features unprecedented access to some of the world's most remarkable performers and associates who are most familiar with his craft including Alan Rickman, James Earl Jones, Dame Janet Suzman, Nadine Gordimer, Sir Ben Kingsley, Sir Antony Sher, and Pieter-Dirk Uys. The film also features extracts from some of his best-known plays and performances by award-winning actors including Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Matthew Broderick and Oscar-winning Kathy Bates.
Latterly Fugard has become best known for the Academy-award winning film adaptation of his novel Tsotsi, but it was the success in the 1960's and 70's of his intensely political plays, which brought him to prominence and into considerable conflict with the apartheid government.
A one-time student of philosophy, Fugard's works are marked by a drive for truth, a rallying cry against injustice and a celebration of humanity, no matter how impossible the individual's conditions.
Fugard has charted the lives of a nation that has struggled to reconcile the terrible scars of its past with its indefatigable hope for the future. He has been the recipient of countless awards from around the world, including a Tony Award for Sizwe Banzi is Dead/The Island and a London Evening Standard Award for Master Harold and the Boys. His plays include Boesman and Lena, Statements after an Arrest Under the Immorality Act (1972) and The Road to Mecca (1984). In 2011, Fugard received a Special Tony Lifetime Achievement Award – the highest honour the American theatre community can bestow. He has also received honorary doctorates from Yale, Brown and Princeton universities in the US.
Director Tony Palmer specialises in profiling exceptional figures, and Athol Fugard is no exception. His work includes over 100 films, ranging from early works with The Beatles, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa (200 Motels), to his classical portraits which include profiles of Maria Callas, Richard Wagner, Yehudi Menuhin, and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Among over 40 international prizes for his work are 12 Gold Medals from the New York Film Festival as well as numerous BAFTAs and Emmy Awards. Last year Tony Palmer won a Grierson Award for his astonishing film on Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire.
Founding Producer of the Fugard Theatre and producer of the documentary, Eric Abraham said: “I can think of no other playwright living today whose work embodies moral clarity and a common humanity to the same extent as that of Athol Fugard. I commissioned this documentary, and invited Sky Arts to join in as a co-producer, to fill a gaping hole in Athol's audio-visual legacy. I was astounded that there was no other substantial documentary on this exceptional man. Vuka South Africa! Honour this great son in every way you can in his lifetime. Minister of Education ensure that Fugard's works are included in the school syllabuses. SABC screen this documentary. South Africa needs his brand of common humanity across the colour lines now more than ever."
Tickets for the screenings of the documentary, on Monday 16 July at 8pm, can be purchased through the theatre's box office on 021 461 4554 for R75. Bookings open on Friday 15 June.
Fugard's new play The Blue Iris, directed by Janice Honeyman and starring Graham Weir, Claire Berlien and Lee-Ann Van Rooi, will have its World Première at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown at the end of June before being presented at the Fugard Studio Theatre from 4 to 28 July 2012, Monday to Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are R110 to R140 via the Theatre's box office on 021 461 4554 or visit Computicket.com. Special discounts are available to the Friends of the Fugard.