Bill Kinnon on CATCH A FIRE
My friend in Toronto, Bill Kinnon, wrote the following in the "comments" on my last blog about the movie "Catch A Fire." I publish them here because I believe you need to know these things and consider seeing the movie. --John Frye
"I was profoundly moved by the film, as was Imbi [his wife]. We are both lovers of South Africa. I went the first time in 1996 - Imbi, a year later. I was there shooting a documentary with an African-American pastor and was travelling with a team of Americans (who were predominantly black).
On our arrival in Cape Town, I witnessed a young female team member being rudely hassled by a six foot six inch, blonde customs person. Five years after the end of apartheid. She was African-American. I was treated with warm politeness. I'm pasty white. In George, I have footage of three white church members storming out of their church because the evening was being led by "black people." In East London, we were told in a white church that they didn't allow drums because drums came from the jungle and were demonic. (In the twelve times I've been in Africa, I've yet to see jungle.) Some years later, I walked the beach in Durban with a friend of mine who is Zulu. He told me of being on the beach "illegally" during apartheid and having thousand of eyes in white faces glare at him with hatred - he is one of the kindest, gentlest men I know and one of the finest bass players on the planet. They just saw a "kaffir" (a horrible word with roots in the Arabic word "kafir.")
After my friend told me the story, he took about half an hour before he spoke again - the memory still burned. Would that that was his only experience of evil in his country. He experienced much worse. And he discovered during the Truth and Reconciliation commission that he and his "twin brother of another mother," the white Afrikaner drummer he'd played with since his late teens were both on a hit list of the secret police. His Afrikaner twin was the nephew of a famous white South African poet. He was bringing dishonour to his family and race by his love for and friendship with a Zulu man.
I've seen the realities of race hatred that still exist in South Africa, even amongst Christians. And I am shocked that there wasn't widespread bloodshed when Apartheid came to an end. That can only be the hand of God. Catch a Fire captures the sorrow of Apartheid South Africa. Tim Robbins as the conflicted Police Colonel Nic Vos, shows the depths to which we can sink in "protecting our world." (I have no doubt that Robbins is making a strong statement from his own political point of view.) Derek Luke is exceptional as Patrick Chamusso. His transformation from a man focused on his work and family to a freedom fighter (terrorist to the Apartheid South African Police Special Brand) is a nuanced performance. This is a very good film. One I would strongly recommend. And there is redemption in the film.
Will it make you uncomfortable? I certainly hope so. I will be sending my three teenagers to see it. Thanks, John, for recommending it.