Everything Must Fall

Directed by Rehad Desai

85 minutes / Color
Closed Captioned
Release: 2019
Copyright: 2018

Can a diverse group of college kids find common ground with their school’s faculty and janitorial staff to bring the school administration to its knees? Can they banish a nation’s crippling student debt, guarantee workers benefits and living wages, and implement free college for all?

In this galvanizing examination of the fight for free higher education, acclaimed documentarian Rehad Desai takes his own alma mater as a case study in a growing intersectional global movement.

At South Africa’s elite, ivy-covered Wits University, students chanting “Fees Must Fall” held a rally against steep tuition hikes. The cry became a viral social media hashtag. One protest fueled another. The administration called in more than a thousand armed police. Soon, a leading institution of nearly 40,000 students was shut down. Neighboring university students struggling with their own mounting debt joined the cause, which become a national movement… one marked by escalating conflict, violence and death.

Featuring heart-pounding front-lines footage from the midst of the movement’s essential protests, Everything Must Fall also includes one-on-one interviews with involved faculty members; administrators—including chancellor Adam Habib, himself a former Wits student activist; and the group’s charismatic founding student leaders—Mcebo Dlamini, Shaeera Khalla, Nompendulo Mkhatshaw and Vuyani Pambo—who faced severe consequences for their activism.

Even after their fight has led to three deaths, 800 arrests and counting, the students are determined to achieve transformational, intergenerational justice and “decolonized,” free higher education a message increasingly popular in countries worldwide.

"[T]he film portrays students as seeing themselves as the most important agents in taking forward not only their struggle, but the struggle of workers as well... Brings to the fore some of the more pertinent political questions of our time." Amandla! Magazine

"The hard-hitting, thought-provoking documentary film that provides perhaps the best insight possible into the tumultuous events that disrupted university campuses around the country." —Inside Labour

"Demanding governments be held accountable while also challenging deeper racial, gender, class and sexual identity discrimination, this group of inspiring young people demonstrate the power that comes from collective organizing which embraces intersectionality to create lasting change." —Human Rights Watch Film Festival

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Select Accolades

  • Best Film, 2019 One World Human Rights Film Festival
  • Best Documentary, 2019 South African Film and Television Awards
  • Best Documentary Director, 2019 South African Film and Television Awards
  • Best South African Documentary, 2018 Cape Town International Film Festival
  • 2018 Johannesburg Film Festival
  • 2018 International Documentary Filmfestival Amsterdam (IDFA)
  • 2019 Oslo Human Film Festival
  • 2019 Human Rights Watch Film Festival
  • 2019 Movies That Matter Human Rights Film Festival


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