Kevin Harris


Kevin Harris is a South African who has lived and worked as an independent filmmaker in South Africa for the past forty four years.

In November 2007, Kevin Harris was awarded the Golden Horn Film & TV Award for Life-time Achievement in Documentary Film-making by the National Film & Video Foundation of South Africa.

Kevin Harris’ independent career began in October 1979 when he was fired by the Apartheid controlled SABC TV regime for ensuring the uncensored broadcast of his documentary “BARA”, which went behind the scenes of an overcrowded Baragwanath Hospital and exposed the oppressive social / environmental conditions under which the community of Soweto were forced to live in the township.

“BARA” was awarded the Star Tonight Best Documentary Award for 1979.

In 1982 he made his first independent documentary.

“This We Can Do For Justice & For Peace” gave expression to the standpoint of the South African Council of Churches in opposing Apartheid in South Africa – through the concerned perspectives of General Secretary Bishop Desmond Tutu & SACC President Peter Story.

Restricted in South Africa, but broadcast in the USA by NBC under the title, “Land of Courage, Land of Fear”, the documentary was awarded two Emmy Awards.

In 1986, he conceived & produced the alternative series of documentary reports on South Africa during the “state of emergency” under the Apartheid regime, titled “South Africa Now”.

Developed for weekly broadcast by Danny Schechter [ Globalvision] on PBS, “South Africa Now”, continued to expose the injustice and brutality of Apartheid and successfully challenged the content of sanitized mainstream USA network coverage of the South African situation from 1987 to 1990.

Two international co-productions – “Witness to Apartheid” [1986 – Sharon Sopher ] & “The Cry of Reason” [1989 – Bob Bilheimer ] – both received USA Academy Award nominations.

In November 1987, Kevin Harris appeared as a specialist witness for the defence in the “Delmas” Treason Trial.

In 1988 he exposed the brutality of the South African Security Forces military occupation of Namibia, in 1988 with the documentary “Namibia – no easy road to freedom”.

In 1990, the documentary “Namibia – Rebirth of a Nation” examined the bitter-sweet legacy facing an Independent Namibia looking to rebuild a country ravaged by decades of war and military occupation.

In 1990 he also developed & instituted an AIDS-awareness work-shopping project with the youth of Sharpeville Township out of which the docu-drama “MARGINS – Youngblood” documentary series was created.

Community film projects include the two dramatized documentaries, “The Right Time” & “Tomorrow’s Parents”. Work-shopped with the youth, these films examine many facets of life in the townships including issues such as unwanted teenage pregnancies & the breakdown in “parent-child” communication.

He served as Media Representative for the PPHC-AWG Network [ Progressive Primary Health Care – Aids Working Group] in 1991 & 1992.

In 1992, Kevin Harris was awarded the Standard Bank Young Artist Award for Film in S.A.

Since democracy in 1994, Kevin Harris has to date produced & directed a significant number of South African feature documentaries on a variety of current social social & political issues – broadcast by SABC Television, MNET & e-TV.

He has also Produced & Directed international co-production ventures with M-NET, ZDF & ARD1[ Germany ], ABC TV [Australia] & PBS [ USA ].

International co-productions include:

“Unfinished Business” – 1999 – Investigation into the torture and execution of exiles by ANC Military Tribunal at Quatro Camp [Awarded a “Special Commendation” by the United Nations Media Peace Awards]

“Judgement Day” – 2001 / 2 – Documentary feature on the current situation in Israel / Palestine taking as a reference point the struggle for liberation in South Africa. [Awarded Best Documentary – Apollo Film Festival]

In September 2004, Kevin Harris initiated the Documentary Director Mentorship Program in association with the National Film & Video Foundation – to promote economic empowerment, sustainability and skills development in the South African film and television industry by mentoring young South African documentary producer / directors.

From 2006 to 2019, Kevin Harris’ documentary productions include:

“Desmond & Leah Tutu – A Love Divine” – 2006

– [ the 24 min documentary on the 50 yr relationship of Archbishop Desmond & Leah Tutu as husband & wife ]

“In the Dock” – 48 min – 2007

– [ an introspective autobiographical journey by local South African anti-Apartheid film-maker Kevin Harris – looking back at his life-experience and the circumstances that put him on the long road to The Delmas Treason Trial ]

“In the Shadows of Beau Bassin” – 48 min – 2007

– [ “In the Shadows of Beau Bassin” is the little known saga of 1581 Jewish refugees deported to Mauritius in 1940 and detained at Beau Bassin Prison for some four and a half years during World War II ]

“From the Edge” – 2009 / 2010 – a documentary-director mentorship project

Kevin Harris mentored ten first-time documentary directors with the twelve-part documentary series, “From the Edge” – supported by the NFVF – and commissioned by SABC2, broadcast in 2011.

“Zimbabwe – past the post …. on a dark horse” – 2011 – Episodes 1 & 2

An intimate and engaging documentary on contemporary Zimbabwe – viewed through the window provided by the Zimbabwe horse-racing fraternity and their celebration of the  Golden Jubilee held at Borrowdale Race Course in June 2009

“Umuhle … Omubi – the good one, the bad one” – [2012 / 13] – 48 min. The story of John Sydney Marwick who led the 10 x day march from Johannesburg to Pietermaritzburg in 1899 to repatriate 7 000 Zulu labourers stranded on the Rand & faced with starvation & destitution with the outbreak of the second Anglo Boer War.
Click here to view the video

“Remember Dr Melville Edelstein – the life & death of a good man” – [2012 / 13] – The life and times of Dr Melville Edelstein murdered by a crowd of enraged students after the police shootings that precipitated the June 16th 1976 uprising in Soweto.
Click here to view the video

“Vercingetorix – the legacy” – [2014] – 22 minute documentary on the Riverside Grooms’ Coop & how they bought, reared & sold for 1.4 Million Rand the South African bred champion Vercingetorix.

“To be a Champion” – [2014 / 2015]– 48 minute documentary on the 2013 / 2014 National Jockey Championship & what it took for 28-yr-old S’manga Khumalo to be the first Black jockey to take the title.

“Two South Africans” – [2017 / 18] – 110 minute documentary feature – “Two South Africans” is the combined life’s journey of Marcello Fiasconaro and Hezekiel Sepeng – two South African world champions – told against the tortured sporting / political backdrop of South Africa’s begrudging & grueling climb from the dark days of Apartheid to the afterglow of a new free and democratic post-1994 South Africa.

“Remember Khotso House – Aluta Continua” – [2018] – 2 x 48 minute episode documentary.                                     Episode 1 – “The Calling” & Episode 2 – “Deliverance”.

“Remember Khotso House – Aluta Continua” – is a compelling 2 x part documentary reflecting on the life’s journey of the South African Council of Churches in its fight against apartheid through the 1980s & 90s – together with Civil Society Organisations such as the United democratic Front [UDF] – with a call for the SACC and Civil Society to once again today become the moral and prophetic voice speaking truth to those in power and holding political leadership accountable to the citizens who vote them into office. In all this, “Khotso House” – the “house of peace”, enduring headquarters of the SACC, offices of many Civil Society & anti-Apartheid organisations in the 1980s & 1990s – stands as an iconic symbol and reminder of the struggle against the oppression and injustice of the past and the hope of liberation and a better life for all in the future.

“The best Among People” – [2019] – 48 min. “The Best Among People” brings to the screen the everyday South African men and women who commit & risk their lives volunteering for rescue and relief-aid missions – from where-ever they may get the call – both internationally and at home in South Africa. These are the religious and culturally diverse group of South African volunteers that make up The Gift of the Givers – headed and driven by their visionary founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman. Relief & medical aid for wars in Gaza & Syria, earthquakes in Haiti & Nepal, devastating fires in Knysna, crippling drought in Sutherland & Makhanda or cyclone Idai in Mozambique, Zimbabwe & Malawi – Gift of the Givers are among the first to go in. On a second front, tirelessly negotiating the release of South African hostages Yolande & Pierre Korkie or Stephen McGown – held by Al-Qaeda terrorists for six years in the deserts of Mali – Dr Imtiaz Sooliman leads his dedicated team – founded in 1992 – in accordance with their mission statement: “the best among people are those who benefit mankind”.

True Patriot – [2022] – 82 min.

It has been said that: “the road to hell is paved with good intention”

Between 1961 and 1989, in Apartheid South Africa,132 political prisoners were executed by hanging at Pretoria Central Gallows. Many were young – Solomon Mahlangu – executed in 1979, was 22 years old when hanged. All save one was black. John Harris – [no relation to the Producer / Director of this documentary] – hanged at age 27, was the only white person to be executed for fighting apartheid. A member of the clandestine “all white” African Resistance Movement [ARM], John Harris was left the “last man standing” after a nation-wide crack-down by Apartheid security police on the 4th July 1964 saw all members of ARM either detained or fleeing the country. Married to Ann – with a son only six weeks old, in a final desperate statement against Apartheid, on 24th July 1964 John Harris placed a bomb on a “Whites only” platform at the Johannesburg Station. Harris wanted to let the world and the regime know that there were white South Africans vehemently opposed to the injustices of Apartheid. With the best of intentions – in order to avoid casualties – Harris telephoned an urgent warning to two major newspaper offices and the Railway Police warning them of the bomb and instructing them to immediately clear the concourse of all commuters. In spite of Harris’ warnings the authorities did nothing to clear the station and the explosion left twenty-three injured and one dead. On 1st April 1965, at 5.30am, John Harris – aged 27 – softly singing “We shall Overcome”, was executed by hanging in Pretoria. On death row he had one final request:that “one day in a new and free South Africa, on his tombstone should be written: ‘John Harris – True Patriot’. “True Patriot” – an intimate docu / drama feature – tells the remarkable & little-known story of the life & times of John Harris & those closest to him.

Night Train – [2024] – 60 min

Between 1900 & the 1970s, some 5 million Mozambican men & boys rode the “night train” to and from Ressano Garcia conscripted on contract to work the gold & coal mines of the Witwatersrand & surrounding region. Some 5 million migrant workers – a significant compliment to the exploitable source of cheap labour that built the booming industrial economy of South Africa. This is their story. Inspired by the academic research of Professor Charles van Onselen as published in his work, “The Night Trains”. Music by Hugh Masekela (Stimela) & David Marks (Number not a Name, Master Jack & Mountains of Men)

Many of the above documentaries can be viewed on Youtube at:

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  • Born in Pietermaritzburg, Natal on 5th May 1950.
  • Qualified at the end of 1973 with a B/Sc. Engineering – Electrical – degree from the University of Natal, Durban.
  • Entered the film & broadcasting industry – trained & employed by the SABC Television Service from the begning of 1974.
  • Was fired from SABC TV in 1979 for contriving to ensure the uncensored broadcast of his documentary on Soweto & Baragwanath Hospital tled, “BARA”
  • Has worked as an independent film maker in South Africa ever since.

Married, with two adult children, Kevin Harris lives with his wife & family in Johannesburg.