THE BANG BANG CLUB
March 31, 2012 (DVD)
It’s movies like The Bang Bang Club that remind me how many good films exist that never get public notice. Even with the “star power” of Ryan Phillippe, this movie just didn’t get any kind of marketing or attention. And perhaps that was for the best since it is always a delight to discover a film without any preconceived ideas.
The film’s title refers to a group of four photojournalists working in South Africa in the early ’90s and bearing witness to the explosive days leading up to the first free election. Their photos of the combat and violence that took place in the townships won them global acclaim and brought the South African stories to the attention of the world. That these men worked side by side in the center of the action made them brothers, and that is the heart of the movie. The criticism seems to be that the movie fails to adequately shed light on this historic moment in time, but Bang Bang is not meant to be a documentary of the last days of apartheid but rather a look at the lives of four men who jumped into the fray in order to capture the truths of that moment. Each was scarred, in one way or another, by their shared experience, and the movie tells this story well. It is a somewhat intimate portrait of a group of friends and colleagues who supported each other as they sought to chronicle the country’s unrest.
Despite the initial shock of hearing Phillippe and co-star Taylor Kitsch speak in some sort of South African dialect, both actors were superb in their performances. Equally impressive were South African actors Neels Van Jaarsveld and Frank Rautenbach as the other half of the “Club.” Watching them in action did not feel so much like a movie as following a team, and that is what made the film so engaging. I appreciate when movies based on true stories are actually presented on a small scale, as if you are being allowed to explore a private journal. The Bang Bang Club doesn’t try to be “important” or convincing or even convicting; it simply walks you through the retelling of the story. And that’s a rare thing in movies these days.
movie still via IMDB