Friday, October 14, 2005

just watched...

the incredibly entertaining and engaging The Leader, his Driver and the Driver's Wife, a documentary by Nick Broomfield which examines the deeply racist yet declining in influence AWB party which, led by the rather frightening Eugene Terreblanche, opposed the end of apartheid most vociferously in South Africa at the tail end of the 1980s and early 90s.

The pioneer of the faux-naive documentary style since adopted by Theroux, Ronson and, well, nearly everybody, Broomfield's work is both playful and serious, opting not to give Terreblanche the respect and deference afforded to him by the mainstream media, but rather to antagonise him, keep him waiting and treat him as what he is really is - a tin pot would-be dictator leading a bunch of thugs, rather than the leader of a serious political movement.

Instead of feigning sympathy and trying to be helpful in order to get the access he needs, as, say, Jon Ronson does in his excellent film about Omar Bakri Muhammad, Broomfield never once allows his guard to drop. Early on there is a wonderful scene where Terreblanche's driver (who provides much of the focus of the film) interrogates Broomfield on his racial stance. The camera, panning to Broomfield, as it does so often, shows him resolute and unwavering, unwilling to play along with his subject. Many of the film-makers who use Broomfield's template would undoubtedly make non-commital noises, change the subject, turn the conversation around. Broomfield stands his ground. Around the same time, one of his cameramen is beaten by AWB thugs. Broomfield and his team keep filming of course.

When, at last, after a convoluted game of cat and mouse, Broomfield meets Terreblanche, he deliberately sabotages the interview by arriving late and infuriating his subject so much that they are unable to hold a civil interview. "What man is more impotant than me?", Terreblanche rages, "This must be quite a man". "We stopped or a cup of tea", Broomfield blithely replies. If you look closely, you can see the Afrikaans' great leader becoming visibly smaller in front of him.

When he returned, at last, to the UK, Broomfield received death-threats from AWB sympathisers, and was told never to return to South Africa. One guess where he is right now, and what's he's doing?

Filming a follow up.

I know there's a lot of fuss about More4 at the moment, but has anyone kept up with the far less trumpeted 4Docs project? I was under the impression it existed as a commissioning tool for amateur film-makers, but the website appears to have important archived documentary films which are free to view! Can this be right? I haven't tried it yet, but the 4Docs page for Broomfield's film has a tantalising 'PLAY' button that is crying out for pressing. OK then - more to follow if this turns out to work.

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