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Vermaak | Entertainment > Film > Rubrieke | Columns > Reney Warrington: Reeltime

Very little bang in The Bang Bang Club

Reney Warrington - 2011-07-27

Untitled Document

Title: The Bang Bang Club
Director: Steven Silver
Cinematography:Miroslaw Baszak
Starring:Malin Akerman, Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch, Frank Rautenbach, Neels Van Jaarsveld
Runtime:106 mins

I don’t get it. War photographers Greg, Joao, Ken and Kevin, the four original members of The Bang Bang Club, lived the kind of lives, during the violent end of apartheid, that legends and great films are made of. So why is The Bang Bang Club, the film, so boring?

It takes more than a socially unjust backdrop

Simply because a film is set against the backdrop of a social injustice such as apartheid, the holocaust or genocide, and incorporates Pulitzer Prize-winning photography, it does not automatically qualify for an Oscar. There are more components to a great film: passion, production, authenticity, a damn good script and a little something called character development.

Put some effort into the production

, a film shot in South Africa about a South African cop/bank robber, might not have won any awards, but to this day people comment on the high production values – the  ‘70s/‘80s styling, the cars, the suits and the colour treatment of the whole film transported the viewer back in time. The Bang Bang Club (TBBC) looks and feels like a film about the ‘90s, but shot in 2010. (By the way, Stander scores 73% on www.rottentomatoes.com, versus TBBC’s 40%.)

Make it authentic

The South African accent is a killer. At least Leonardo di Caprio tried his hand/tongue at it in Blood Diamonds. In TBBC it is butchered to sound like Kiwi-Aussie-British-American English with “ja” and “bru” thrown in. Ag, nee, bru.

Manual film cameras have a few more settings than focus and shoot. You have to consider your F-stop amongst other things. TBBC photographers apparently did not know that.

Work from a riveting script

There is not one line worth quoting from the TBBC script. It is bland and clichéd.

Give it some depth

Greg starts out as a curious soul, Joao short-tempered, Ken grumpy, and Kevin spaced out. They stay that way to the end. Surely these individuals had to be more interesting than that? To have risked their lives to go and document a very violent war? Was it mere adrenalin? Moral conviction? Insanity?

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Greg on two occasions post-Bang Bang Club. He’s an interesting guy with a boyish wonder in his eyes. How did he manage to keep that alive considering what he had seen? That would have been an interesting question to ask. Unfortunately the Greg you see in TBBC starts out as a rookie, soon shags the picture editor, wins a Pulitzer and is then shot.

The highlights

Vusi Kunene, currently on Isidingo, could make even a KFC ad riveting. (Not that we wish for him to star in one.) His heart-wrenching monologue was one of the few authentic moments in the film.

The scene where Kevin hides behind an army vehicle, with drivers and police still inside, and lights up a zol was incredibly funny and so South African. The police shout at him to put it out, but they’re too scared to get out and enforce their command.

One or two scenes gave me goosebumps. For example, whenever Ken instinctively knew he had shot a great picture, he shot a blank frame by covering the lens with his hand.

To summarise

I would still recommend TBBC as a movie worth seeing. It does tell an interesting story, (although in a very uninteresting way), a story that I perhaps knew too well beforehand, but that would surely entertain and inform many moviegoers.