Vusi Kunene is my favourite actor. Not for his daily soapies, but for his more nuanced acting – like in the Bang Bang Club – a film about a group of The Star journalist who captured the 1990s political violence in South Africa. He plays Mofokeng – my name sake – who lost his one son in the IFP/ANC “war” in Boipatong. His role is miniscule, but poignant. Then you have the superstars, playing the white protagonists as it is to be expected in South African post-apartheid cinema.
It is tragic cinema, at its best and worst. The best in that it captures the mood, tone and pain of the time. But is also the worst in that it foregrounds the “other” – white people – in capturing and retelling our pain and stories.
The film is poignant in its significance and its lack of care for the black body. But this we should expect in “white”-produced cinema for we are nothing but subjects if not labour to them. It seems the only problem for the white protagonists are drugs, heavy-drinking and womanising. Even the Pulitzer-winning photojournalists do not evoke any sense of emotion for me – they are nothing but cinematic subjects. While the film is excellent in its depiction of the time, it failed to lure me in its hypnosis. Instead, I could only spot the glarring mistakes of their characters – who are mainly white – not so much for its story.
The tragic deaths of the photographers is overshadowed by poor dialogue, irregular love scenes and ill-defined roles of the political parties in the main story. This film proves my theory that as black people we have not presented a decent “post-apartheid” film worth watching outside of Kalushi.
This film is ahead of its peers, but lacks in so many other areas. It challenges us to present movies about ourselves after apartheid. It encourages us to tell our stories truly and without fear or favour. The only question is, who is going to pay for them?