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Powerful & Humbling - Make Sure You Catch 'Catch A Fire'
on 2 September 2010
Based on the true life story of South African Freedom Fighter, Patrick Chamussa, this film was powerful stuff. There's so much to mention, I don't know where to start.
The basic story is this: Patrick,a young man,worked hard. He had a good job at an oil plant, having worked his way up from the mines,where he started at the age of 15. In his naivety, he believed that if he kept his head down and towed the line he would be rewarded for his hard work and be able to provide a better life for his family, to whom he is devoted. Of course, in the 2-tiered system of apartheid, this was impossible. Having always shied away from politics in an attempt to keep his nose clean, one day he is picked up on suspicion of a terrorist attack, and on his release becomes a freedom fighter; to try and put right the wrongs in his land.
The story is great - if that's the right word. It shows how hate breeds hate, and how the floored system of South African politics, and the way in which they dealt with suspects, simply breed more and more ANC fighters - the very people they were trying to stop. And without getting too political, this perhaps gives us food for thought in our current climate too. As the story unravelled there were, not so much twists and turns, but events that just threw spanners in the works and took the story interesting places - much as in real life... funny that, this being a true story and all.
Visually, the film was a joy... most of the time. Parts of it were hard to watch, but generally the back drop South Africa provided was stunning and made for pleasant viewing. And, interspersed here and there with real life footage of freedom fighters, Mr. Mandela, and along with the bright yellow of the ANC fighters' T-shirts, I found it visually stimulating.
The film was also very stimulating audio wise, with 3 languages spoken throughout: English, Africaans and (I'm guessing here, as it was mentioned in the film) Zulu. It was also a joy to listen to the songs sung by the black people of South Africa. Naturally, songs of freedom, directed towards their white opressors. And as they sung and danced you couldn't helped but be roused by their chants and dancing too.
The film ended with a short narration from the real Patrick Chamussa, who - if we didn't think he was a very special human being after just witnessing all he'd done for others, in his life both before and after he became a freedom fighter - we're left in no doubt about it when we see what he's done since his release from the infamous Robin Island. The prison off the South African coast dedicated to ANC activists, terrorists, or freedom fighters depending on your view point and stance.
Catch a fire is a film that many people will give 5 stars to, I think, purely for the subject matter alone - with films on sensitive subjects, it seems to be almost a Knee-jerk reaction. An almost human response in an attempt to make up for passed wrongs - but that's doing this film a disservice. This film deserves 5 star for many more reasons than that. It deserves 5 stars because it's a great film in itself - true story or not - for all the reasons I've mentioned above.
The fact it is a true story though, can't be ignored, and all we can do is try and take lessons away and learn from it ourselves. The points made about forgiveness by Patrick (and Mandela) at the end are very poignant, and I know I would like to try a live by the words Patrick bestows on us - whether or not I could, do, or will though, is easier said than done. It's the type of enlightenment you can easily spout, yet never really fully understand unless you've been through it yourself. Words that having watched this film carry real weight.
9/10 - The codename bestowed on Patrick when he became a freedom fighter was 'Hot Stuff'... suitably fitting words to describe 'Catch a Fire'.
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