The Bang Bang Club

2011-08-10 15:23
 
The Bang Bang Club
What it's about:

Based on a true story, the titular Bang Bang Club was a group of four South African photojournalists whose willingness to do whatever it took to get the perfect shot often took a great personal toll on their lives and personal relationships and had them facing tremendous ethical dilemmas about what they were doing. It also meant, however, that they were responsible not only for some of the most iconic images to come out of those tumultuous years before the end of apartheid, but were also able to expose a civil war happening in South Africa that could have brought the country to its knees, but went almost unnoticed by white South Africans and the international community.

What we thought:

There is a lot to like about The Bang Bang Club and, yes, there are aspects that niggle, but it is a film that deserves to be seen by as wide an audience – a South African audience, especially – as possible, simply because it tells a genuinely exceptional story. This is a film that not only gives us a greater understanding of the final years of apartheid and the shocking devastation of the Xhosa-Zulu civil war, but it also provides insight into the people who literally risked life and limb to bring the truth to light and the very definite toll that it took on them.

It is a narrative that provides fertile ground for a multitude of themes that will perhaps resonate most with media types but, considering that we are living in an unprecedented age of ease-of-access information and news, these are talking points that have never been timelier. The Bang Bang Club is a story that inevitably raises questions about the media's responsibility to convey the truth versus its responsibility to its subjects beyond "merely" reporting on them while asking just how far is too far in the pursuit of a story and measuring that against the nasty business of censorship.

INTERVIEW: The Bang Bang Club: Our dark history through a lens

What we have here, in short, is a film whose basic material is so intrinsically compelling that it would take some fairly abysmal filmmaking to screw it up. While this may be the very first non-documentary feature film for Steven Silver, he avoids the trap of many first time directors by not trying too hard to stamp everything with his own directorial style – wisely stepping back and allowing this fascinating story to unfold on its own terms. His history as an awards-winning documentary-filmmaker serves him well here as he brings an objective eye to some incendiary subject matter and brutally violent images. He does perhaps take this objective detachment a bit too far, however, as the film's most notable flaw is that some of the quieter moments – the kind of drama that wouldn't usually feature in a documentary – fall slightly flat.

Not that anything in the film falls quite as flat as some of the accents on display. The calibre of talent in front of the camera is generally very high with some very impressive turns from local (Frank Rautenbach and Neels Van Jaarsveld are especially good as Ken Oosterbroek and Joao Silver, respectively) and American/Canadian actors alike. Malin Akerman is far more solid here than she has been in some of her more questionable roles and Ryan Phillippe really steps up his game with a career-best performance as the film's nominal lead.

Both of them do perfectly OK with our clearly difficult South African accent. Would that I could say the same about Taylor Kitsch. His weird, racial-and-regional-unspecific accent gives the 'Sowfff Aahfrikaaan' accents in Lethal Weapon 2 a run for their money in terms of sheer laughable awfulness. And yet, none of this changes the fact that his is clearly the breakout performance here. His character is by far the most psychologically scarred and complex in the film and, accent aside, he is every bit as compelling and heartbreakingly tragic as the role demands.

It may not be perfect but there is little reason not to give The Bang Bang Club a shot.

What you thought:

Any film that seeks to tell a version of South Africa's apartheid struggle is bound to be controversial. When international actors attempt our unique accent, that nearly doubles the controversy.

Let us know your thoughts once you've seen the movie. Do you think the film felt genuine? And did Ryan Phillipe and Taylor Kitsch handle the accent well?

We'd like to hear from you. Send your reviews to movies@channel24.co.za and the best review will win a Kalahari.net voucher.



An insightful retelling of the violent final days of apartheid, as seen through the lens of four photographers whose own tragic story is interwoven with that of South Africa's turbulent history.

Grieta Esterhuizen 2011/07/03 11:49 AM
Will the Bang Bang Club become a DVD, we here in other countries can not see the movies, but we love to buy a DVD!
Gilly Green 2011/07/24 7:40 PM
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Superb ... it had me on the edge of my seat - and at the same time aghast, and, apart from the odd news report of 'faction fighting' I was going about my own life and had no idea this was going on on my doorstep at the time. I thought the actors handled their roles very, very well and that the scenes of downtown Johannesburg were completely authentic.
John Browne 2011/07/26 8:24 AM
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It was difficult to watch but gripping. It showed me what I should have known and done something about - but what?. The move from Boiphetong to Election Day - from War to Peace was only an answer to the Prayers of God's people and His amazing grace - and how he used people to achieve it.
Willver 2011/07/27 12:38 PM
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Very Good! Better than the typical American movie where everyone is a hero or need to make a speach at some time in the movie! For me the two South African lead actors were better than their imported counterparts. For me the only negative was that being familiar with the history I thought that they brushed past some incidents without giving enough details. However I was never bored. Worth the watch - Still very good.
Tim 2011/07/27 12:44 PM
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Utter rubbish. The acting was weak to say the least. The story was based on the truth, but barely.
Janice 2011/07/28 12:04 PM
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absolutely loved it! I shall be watching it a few more times too.
Paul 2011/07/29 3:24 PM
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An amazing movie. I forgot about the accents and lived myself into a story that hit home so close. The caracters, the familiar places, unique South African slang and even the back ground music was suppurb.
ph reyneke 2011/08/01 2:57 PM
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My overall impression was that this was a low-budget movie and a very boring 'script while it had such a strong story to tell......in felt cheated at the end!!!
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