A Brother with Perfect Timing 1987

Christopher Austin / South Africa / UK / 90 mins / English / Rating 12

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A Brother with Perfect Timing


One of the world’s great jazz composers and pianists, Abdullah Ibrahim, muses on being an artist, a sound scientist and a martial artist in this illuminating, thoroughly engaging and comprehensive portrait of a musical icon and South African cultural freedom fighter. Particularly telling is Ibrahim’s explanation of the creation of two of his signature compositions, "Anthem for a New Nation" and "Manenberg". Rare live performance footage in New York amplifies this feast of sounds.

In that rarest kind of documentary, conveying the feeling of the viewer being in an intimate discussion with the subject, Ibrahim talks about his globally popular music, the struggle for freedom in South Africa and what makes musical artistry, while exiled in New York with memories of Cape Town and the sources of his music.

Join us and the Scottish Documentary Institute (SDI) for a masterclass from director Chris Austin on Friday 22 October, 14:00. More information here.


About the director

Austin was born in Cape Town and left the country at twenty-three after a short career as a journalist, photographer and filmmaker. His first film for British television was Rhythm of Resistance, for LWT’s new arts programme, shot in South Africa in 1978.

He later returned to South Africa to secretly shoot four documentaries with cameraman and editor Peter Chappell, assisted by journalist Nomavenda Mathiane. South Africa Belongs to Us attracted the most attention, and was credited with triggering the sanctions campaign in Germany. The apartheid regime caught up with him, cancelled his passport and banned him from returning for over a decade.

Later, he made The House of Hunger in Zimbabwe, based on Dambudzo’s Marechera’s novel, and Harare became a second home through the 80s and 90s. Brenda Fassie, Not A Bad Girl was his first film back in a liberated South Africa. Austin now divides his time between Cape Town and London.