The Urgent Queue

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Screening Details

Running Time: 29 min. (Black and White) / Copyright Date: 1958 / Commercial Release Date: 31 January 1958 / Language: English / Genre: Staged Documentary / Alternative Title: The Condemned Are Happy.


When a severe drought forces a black family from the rural Transkei to move to Port Elizabeth, they land up in the slum area of Korsten, where they have to pay an exploitative landlord for the right to build a shack on a tiny piece of ground. While the father finds a menial job in a factory, he is concerned about the education of his children and is shocked when the eldest boy is caught stealing. One day a white man turns up and tells him about a housing project in New Brighton and after a lengthy wait the family is eventually able to move into their new home.


An early film by Jamie Uys, made for the South African Information Service, today this is regarded as a propaganda piece made to illustrate the benefits of the government’s housing policy without any reference to forced removals. It is very much a film of its time, with all good things being seen to come from the benevolent white man. Particularly sobering is a newspaper headline that promises “No more slums by 1960”. The film was originally released under the title The Condemned Are Happy, until someone thought better of it and retitled it The Urgent Queue. The main role is taken by the always dignified, but uncredited Ken Gampu.