Archetypes in the Archive

Finding ‘South Africa’ in the Production of Dario Marianelli’s Score for Goodbye Bafana


  • C. Letcher University of the Witwatersrand



South African cinema, postcolonialism, representation, Goodbye Bafana, Madosini


Composer Dario Marianelli began the process of scoring Goodbye Bafana (2007), a film that tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s prison life through the eyes of his white gaoler, with several days’ immersion in what he describes as “old field recordings” of southern African music in the British Library Sound Archive. This paper considers Marianelli’s pursuit of a “pure” South African music for the film and closely examines the resulting soundtrack. The asymmetries of marked and unmarked musics, the writing-out of local musical elements in favour of a more generic orchestral film music style, and the signifying properties of reverberation are all explored. I also consider the consequences of a film’s weaknesses, aesthetic and/or political, for its music, and conclude with a constructive example of film music’s dramatic power in transnational cross-cultural music production contexts.


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How to Cite

Letcher, C. (2016). Archetypes in the Archive: Finding ‘South Africa’ in the Production of Dario Marianelli’s Score for Goodbye Bafana. Journal of Film Music, 6(2), 165–174.