Hands off, Hollywood!

2013-03-26 14:06
South Africans are, much to their annoyance I'm sure, discovering that they're very much like their frenemies over in New Zealand.

This week the news emerged that Hollywood was taking those inevitable first steps to bring the still-shocking story of Reeva Steenkamp's shooting at the hands of arguably the most famous Paralympic athlete of all time – her boyfriend Oscar Pistorius – to the big screen.

Charlize Theron and Ryan Gosling have been attached to play the doomed couple. And judging by what Channel24 readers have had to say, this project is, by turns, disgusting, tasteless, disrespectful and a shameless attempt at cashing in on a tragedy.

For many South Africans, the Oscar shooting is still a raw nerve, a national tragedy that is still playing out in courtrooms, in the media and wherever people get together to talk and air their views.

The vote currently up on the Channel24 homepage indicates that an overwhelming majority of readers are outright offended by the idea of a movie about that fateful Valentine's Day shooting.

For Hollywood to make their move, and so soon, is seen as just another attempt by a mighty industry to play hard and fast with a story they are ill-placed to truly understand. Like casting US stars in iconic SA roles such as Nelson Mandela and Francois Pienaar in Clint Eastwood's Invictus, or Denzel Washington as Steve Biko in Cry Freedom, any claims to authenticity will be lost.

This, of course, coming from a nation that is ready and willing to quickly hash out a made-for-TV movie about all kinds of famed crime trials for entertainment purposes, such as Amanda Knox, John Wayne 'Where's My Penis?' Bobbitt, and the Laci Peterson story.

If SA is protective over their own stories, then we can only commiserate with New Zealand who found themselves cast, if only momentarily, as the villains in Argo. In Ben Affleck's Oscar-winning retelling of how the CIA and the Canadian embassy conspired to smuggle 6 Americans being hunted down in Iran during the Islamic Revolution, one small line uttered by the CIA's Jack O'Donnell (played by Bryan Cranston) gave the impression that NZ did nothing to help the Americans escape, when the exact opposite was true.

It's forced New Zealanders to take another look at themselves and consider how their identity has been reshaped when seen through the eyes of another.

The Oscar saga is perhaps the first time since the apartheid era that South Africa has been thrown into the international spotlight in such a violently unappealing manner. Any ideas we may have had about our own culture, our own crime statistics and fears about our own personal safety has been picked apart by the international media – and that's just not fun.

If - and when - another one of our stories finds its way filtered through the Hollywood lens, will we be prepared for the scrutiny?

Let's hope we'll have developed the collective wherewithal to withstand whatever Hollywood throws at us when the Oscar movie hits our local cinemas.


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Local is very lekker!

2014-01-31 11:38
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