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Monday, July 22, 2019


(Rehad Desai)

Everything Must Fall, directed by Rehad Desai appears on the Durban International Film Festival. It will be showing again at Musgrave 3 at 16h30 on July 23 and is currently showing on Showmax. (Review by Patrick Compton)

This is a documentary largely devoted to the #FeesMustFall demonstrations at Wits University from 2015-18. The focus is mainly on four student leaders and a clutch of academics who supported them, while vice-chancellor Adam Habib gets some opportunities to provide his perspective on the student crisis.

Desai, who made the award-winning Miners Shot Down, clearly supports the student rebellion which was sparked by a proposed 10.5% increase in tuition fees. This protest later spread to issues such as outsourcing university worker employment to external agencies as well as “decolonising” education, an aim which remains at a sloganeering level.

Desai does give opportunities for Habib to explain his position. Not surprisingly, the intellectually left-leaning vice-chancellor finds himself between a rock and a hard place – sympathising with free tuition in principle but also finding it extremely difficult to make it happen because of the government’s inability or perhaps intransigence in terms of increasing funding. As he argues on a number of occasions, his main priority is to keep the institution open and solvent and thus able to fulfill its core duties of knowledge production – an imperative that the “fallists” seem to ignore.

There’s plenty of footage of protesting students, aggressive cops and the like, but it’s a worry that, apart from Habib, centrist positions on the struggle are virtually ignored by the filmmaker as is the violence, bullying and threats emanating from some of the protesters whom Habib later went on to describe as the “Pol Pot brigade” owing to their desire to shut down Wits permanently.

It’s worth pointing out, because Desai palpably doesn’t, that the “fallism” years at universities and technikons nationwide cost the fiscus approximately R800 million in damages. Finally, it should be borne in mind that there is no such thing as “free” education. In the end, someone has to pay for tuition, food and accommodation, and the buck stops – of course – with the already overburdened taxpayer who Habib estimates would have to stump up an added R143 billion per year, a clearly impossible task given South Africa’s already ravaged economy.

Everything Must Fall will be showing again at Musgrave 3 at 16h30 on July 23. The movie is also currently showing on Showmax. – Patrick Compton