Google reading my RSS feeds yesterday, I came across John Frye’s post on Catch A Fire, a film he’d just seen with his wife, Julie. Set in apartheid South Africa in the early eighties, the movie elicits this response from John:
Because the story is true in the context of apartheid, suspicion, moral dilemma, brutality, bravery and love, the conclusion is astounding.
After reading John’s post, I did I quick search and discovered the film playing at the Rainbow Cinema in Market Square in downtown Toronto. Imbi and I were shocked to get a parking spot right outside the cinema, on Front Street – an auspicious beginning to a very good evening.
Let me say upfront, before I write anything more – I recommend this movie highly – go see it! This is a very well crafted movie. I felt like I was on the edge of my seat for much of it.
South Africa is a country for which Imbi and I have a deep love. I went for the first time in 1996, Imbi a year later. Today, some of our favourite people on the planet live there. We have seen both the beauty of the nation and the ugly underbelly of racism that still has a voice.
Catch A Fire is the sad story of a man falsely accused of being a terrorist, who becomes a freedom fighter in a reaction to the horror perpetrated against him, his family and his friends. It is a powerful story of attempting to stand up for what is right – with the heroes and villains all believing they are doing just that. All of the characters in this story are broken. The flawed hero, an adulterer whose past sins find him out. His wife, a woman who desperately loves her husband, but does not trust him. His accuser, a man convinced he is protecting his nation – by whatever means necessary.
The movie, based on a true story, is written by white South African, Shawn Slovo. She is the daughter of anti-apartheid activists, Joe Slovo and Ruth First. First was assassinated in 1982 by a parcel bomb sent by the South African Bureau of State Security to her university in Mozambique. Slovo’s father served as the housing minister in Nelson Mandela’s first government. The movie is dedicated to him. (A character playing Joe Slovo appears in the movie.)
The movie works on many levels. It is a very well directed action flic. Tim Robbins, Derek Luke and Bonnie (Mbuli) Henna give performances worthy of Oscar nominations. It is a powerful story of man’s inhumanity to man. It captures the beauty of this torn nation. It asks us to contemplate our own latent racism. (Canadians, who were so strong in their attacks on apartheid, ignore the historical reality that Afrikaner leaders visited our great nation, saw how we treated the First Nation’s peoples and embraced those evil concepts in dealing with black Africans.) And it offers us the reality that in the midst of such pain, redemption is possible.
Make a point of seeing this film. I will paying for my teenagers to go. I was shocked that there were only about 15 people in the Cinema last night. It gets an 80% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.