1980, South Africa. It is the time of the rebellion of all townships against Afrikaans and apartheid. The originality of this film is not to only look at the savage brutality of the South African whites but to look at the reality in a small township just before this rebellion and to explore the human and race relations existing there and how they are in the process of changing with a new generation of people arriving on the scene, though still in schools. It is in these schools that it will all start in the form of a refusal to speak Afrikaans and to answer any request, order or assignment given to them in Afrikaans. The film shows how the growing consciousness is crossing the family of the main black cop in the township, because law and order is in the hands of the South African Police whose officers are white but whose rank and file and even non-commissioned officers are black. It thus becomes the son against the father, but also the mother against the father, though the mother is the maid of the the main white officer of the police station and the husband is the main non-commissioned officer of the police station. But some people from the special branch arrive one day and the whole situation will explode, because they arrived, partly, because their first heroic act is the death of an older militant who hanged himself in his cell, with his hands tied up behind his back. But they also arrive on that day because their intelligence is telling them that the younger generation is listening to the militants that are not dead like Biko or in prison like Mandela or in exile like Mbeki. It shows how the local white head of the police station disagrees about these ruthless methods but he yields, though it is never clear whether it is because he wants to keep his job or because he lets himself be convinced about the necessity to bulldoze down this emerging movement. It also shows that the main black non-commissioned officer of the police station will finally resign and go back to his wife and his son, but it will be too late because a knife will be drawn and used before it can be prevented. And then the police reinforcements, this time mainly white, are arriving in the illegal funeral for the first batch of victims. Their is no end in such a policy : violence calls for resistance and violence which calls for more violence and it may last a long time before the powerful side yields and accept to share power and the majority side accepts a compromise that means sharing power and reconciliation. When we see such a film and remember these bloody years, we are justified to say that South Africa has come a long way and had gone, if not over the brink, at least quite close to taking the deep dive into an apocalyptic catastrophe. Strangely enough it is admirable that South Africa produced the leaders it needed to get out of the stalemate it had been cornered into by the bigotry of a racist and fascist regime.
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, University of Paris Dauphine & University of Paris 1 Pantheon Sorbonne