Amnesty International Fest Hosts Robben Island Singers Focus Group Screening

By Alan Slavik
Published: May 10, 2010

Above: Jerry Blumenthal of Kartemquin Films and Jeff Spitz, Executive Director of Groundswell sit on a panel discussion about documentary and social change.

Groundswell co-founder Jeff Spitz presented a rough cut screening of our upcoming documentary “Robben Island Singers” at the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival on April 24th. It was the first time a rough cut has been publicly screened and was met with a very positive reaction from the audience.

The rough cut, now 97 minutes long, spurred a lively conversation afterward as Spitz sat on a panel to discuss it. “I took 3 pages of notes,” Spitz said. “This is the kind of conversation I hoped for, it was very helpful.”

Afterward, the audience was eager to discuss the over-arching themes presented in the film: apartheid, violence, forgiveness and self-actualization in two very different worlds: South Africa and America. The film tracks the journeys of three South African ex-political prisoners once imprisoned with Nelson Mandela after fighting Apartheid.

The singers have brought their message and the music that sustained them while in prison to American schools in a revolutionary cultural exchange program. More information can be found at the project’s website,, which also offers their music for purchase or download.

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