When artist Brett Murray painted a six-foot-tall caricature of South African president Jacob Zuma in 2010, it provoked a lawsuit, death threats, and a massive street protest. Exploring the constellation of themes around this story regarding identity, art, race, economics, and freedom of expression in post-apartheid South Africa is Shield and Spear, a feature-length documentary by filmmaker Petter Ringbom and executive produced by Openbox. In the film, music and art act as a gateway to exploring the complexities of being a “Rainbow Nation” 20 years into democracy.
In looking at the intersection of art and politics, Shield and Spear touches upon social and civic issues that resonate in countries around the world, framing them in the exuberance and passion of South Africa’s creative influencers. Through such artists and musicians as Murray, Gazelle, Zanele Muholi, Yolanda Fyrus, The Brother Moves On, BLK JKS and others, Shield and Spear tackles stereotypes using humor, shock, rebellion, and celebration—all in the shared aim of altering the future of South Africa’s young democracy. As singer and storyteller Siyabonga Mthembu of The Brother Moves On observed,
The seeds are under the ground and eventually they sprout if there’s enough sunshine and light. We are trying to be that kind of light. I think we have the human capacity [in] our culture to build something amazing.
In 2014, Shield and Spear had its world premiere at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, its European premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest, its African debut at the Durban International Film Festival, and its U.S. premiere at Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Sound + Vision festival.