The plot has Nelson Mandela's blacks fighting against the poor Zulu blacks. The Zulus are too poor to join Mandela's boycott of work so they fight on the side of the white power structure against the group that is attempting to empower them. Meanwhile four white photographers are out taking photos of the clashes and killings so we can have something to look at when we eat our Rice Krispies.
The film is designed to ask the question, "Are photographers vultures or leeches?" and "When do you put down the camera and help?" I didn't like the fact you didn't have to think about the theme of the film...it was too overt. I like to dig for it. I didn't get attached to the privileged characters shooting pain and suffering. I had a hard time getting involved in the conflict of poor oppressed people fighting poor oppressed people. I really need a David vs. Goliath type story. The movie had some good scenes and a lot of scenes that simply replayed the theme. Okay, we get it.
F-bomb, brief sex and nudity
This is the s true story of a group of photo journalists, who came to fame during the civil war that saw South Africa finally end apartheid. It is based on the book of one of them; Greg Marinovich (Ryan Phillippe ' '54', 'Cruel Intentions' and 'The Lincoln Lawyer'). Greg was a freelance but managed to get taken seriously by getting up close and personal with the warring sides. The ANC were in a civil war with the 'Authorities' who were being helped by the Zulu Inkatha Freedom Movement. Atrocities were being perpetrated by both sides, but the press was very much on the side of the ANC and working to strict censorship from the ruling white government. Greg went out of his way to hear what Inkatha ha to say ' and show him, it is not all pleasant.
We follow the fortunes of Greg and one of the more laid back members of the 'gang', Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch) who has a penchant for recreational cigarettes and an excellent eye for a good photo. Greg also falls for the Photo Editor ' Robin Comley (Malin Akerman) something which she says she never does. In one scene as they enter a bar there is a poster that proclaims, 'A Civil War s not Very Relaxing', well we soon find out why. There are graphic scenes of violence, with extensive use of machetes and not a lot being left to the imagination. There is real tension throughout and loads of extras involved in the street and ghetto fighting. Writer and director Steven Silver has done an excellent job to try to recreate the actions that took place and are both from the book and the actual original photos.
The film tracks mainly the four year period between 1990 and 1994 and for the most part does so as observer with an interloper feel. The question of 'when do you intervene', is finally addressed, but to say any more would be a plot spoiler for those not familiar with what took place. I always find that some photographers of death and suffering are almost indecent voyeurs, however; the fear and passion that is needed to do such work is brilliantly captured. It is always easier for the casual observer to be critical of such actions, when they have not actually done the deed themselves.
This is an excellent piece of cinema that has brought to the screen an essential piece of African recent history, if you are interested in that period then this is a must see. A word on the acting, everybody puts in excellent to well above credible performances and the direction is great too. There has been criticism of the shaky camera during certain scenes, but as these are street battles I found it totally unobtrusive and even fairly realistic. I feel all involved should be justifiably proud of the film they have made.