Movie review: 'Fatherland'

08 November 2013 - 10:15 By Nikita Ramkissoon
One of the characters in South African documentary feature, 'Fatherland'.
One of the characters in South African documentary feature, 'Fatherland'.
Image: Courtesy of Red Flag

Race is a very touchy issue, and I think it forever will be.

People say that it’s been 19 years since South Africa attained freedom from the shackles of apartheid and we should get over it, but the long-lasting damage it has done is still felt all over the country. You can see it every day.

One such place is the Kommandokorps.

This is a place where about 15 Afrikaans youths are taught that the black man is the enemy, the new South Africa is a lie and that a war will be waged on the white people of our nation and they need to be prepared to fight.

They also want their own country, where apartheid will be reinstated.

This intrigued filmmaker Tarryn Crossman to such an extent, she went in to one of these nine-day camps and did a documentary on it.

Fatherland, which opens Friday at The Bioscope in Johannesburg, tells the story of three white, Afrikaans boys who decide to spend a school holiday doing basic military training, like their fathers did.

However, they find themselves at a tented camp, hungry, tired, worked to the bone, and being indoctrinated by the old Afrikaans regime, and they are forced to decide where they fit into the new South Africa.

It raises very difficult questions about identity, racism, culture and priority.

The boys, who come across as your average Joe, tell us their stories very openly and honestly, with incredible insight into post-apartheid white Afrikaans identity.

What does being true to their ‘Volk’ really mean? The answers are heart-wrenching.

The film, a 70-minute long peek inside the world of these camps, tells it like it is instead of taking a one-sided stance.

It tells the boys’ stories, as well as the stories of the men who run the camps, who are Afrikaans soldiers left behind after 1994, who feel disenfranchised by the new South Africa.

Fatherland explores ideas of identity, that fine line between cultural identity and prejudice, and how a simple belief can become intensely political.

It looks into how race and culture defines people and what they do with their lives regarding it.

Set to the backdrop of Gil Hockman’s guitar and cold, wet farmland, Fatherland gives you the chills and brings on a lot of anger. It’s impossible not to feel something horrendous in your gut.

It also forces you to look at what your own racial prejudices are, and question where you stand in the new South Africa, as well as what you would do should a race war ever break out.

It’s a reminder that we have a very long way to go in South Africa before we heal the wounds of apartheid.

Every South African must see this film. It’s not racist. Not by a long shot. But it can bring out your race demons. And we all have them.

With the new South African flag being desecrated and the 'Oranje Blanje Blou' flying high, the film digs deep, and it hurts.

Fatherland reminds us of these deep wounds and covering them up is not going to help, because the reality is we didn’t properly address anything that happened during apartheid. The TRC was window dressing. We did not debrief the soldiers shell shocked by the Angola border war. We did not educate our revolutionary leaders in how to run a country 101.

It reminds us that we still have miles and miles to go before we can call ourselves one nation.

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