DIFF Review: All aboard the peace train

2015-07-23 13:28

Film: When Voices Meet
Directed by: Nancy Sutton Smith
Featuring: Rosie Katz, John Kani, Abigail Khubeka

When Voices Meet tells part of the story of how South Africa evolved into the “rainbow nation” through the dedication of Grammy-nominated guitarist and singer Sharon Katz, pioneer of the Peace Train Project.

In the early 90s, Katz brought 500 children together to form the Peace Train Project using music to preach peace across the country during the difficult transition to democracy. 

The title raises the question: what voices met? Children with hearts unsoiled, longing to see a united South Africa. They ask: Why am I a prisoner in my country? Why can’t I sit on a Whites Only seat? What’s wrong with my colour? What does black really mean?

“Everybody is a prisoner in the country,” says Katz. 

What then is a unifying factor for South African people then and now? Katz suggests that harmony can be achieved through music. When Voices Meet becomes an exploration of the way in which art can be a tool for change and revolution. 

The film explains that Katz was spurred into action after seeing the play The Just Assassins by French writer and thinker Albert Camus. The state of the society may depend on art creators, believes Katz. What they produce may be panacea for a society’s problems.

Unfortunately, the documentary does not show how tough it was to succeed. It presents a romantic version of events. Katz mentions threats from the apartheid government but without elaboration. Did she get resistance from her immediate family? Did it at one time occur to her colleagues, Nonhlanhla Wanda and Marilyn Cohen to back out? What was the true cost of the struggle on black lives? These questions are not raised, they are not answered.

Also, concerning access to funds and logistics, the movie makes it look so simple. If humanitarian work is that simple, the world would have been a better place long before the Peace Train Project.

An inspirational movie by all standards, When Voices Meet shows that every strike of the strings of today’s guitar echoes well into our future. But it may be necessary to hear the discordant notes as well.
*When Voices Meet will screen on July 23 at 2pm at the Dennis Hurley Centre and on July 24 at 6.30pm at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre with an accompanying concert

*Talents Press is a programme of Talents Durban at the Durban International Film Festival which sees 40  film makers from Africa and the diaspora gather for 5 days of workshops, seminars and masterclasses

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