...“Come Back, Africa” seems to have been willed into existence scene by scene. The tension is palpable. “The very amateurism of the cast becomes a part of the movie’s truth and authenticity,” Jonas Mekas wrote in his Village Voice column in 1960. The narrative is fashioned from a series of sometimes awkward episodes, but as with “On the Bowery,” which conveys a similarly visceral sense of urban disorder, this ungainly construction can be a source of power.
Come Back, Africa does what no other national film dared to do at that time: it gives voice and a presence to blacks, as it tenderly portrays their thoughts, feelings, and culture. The scene in the streets of Johannesburg or the fabulous passage in the shebab, where a sincere political/philosophical discussion precedes the entrance of Miriam Makeba—who truly fills the screen with her voice and body—are some of the best and most moving moments that cinema has ever given us.