© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

Wer Feuer sät (Catch a Fire)
France/U.K./South Africa/U.S.A. 2006

Opening 18 Jan 2007

Directed by: Phillip Noyce
Writing credits: Shawn Slovo
Principal actors: Tim Robbins, Derek Luke, Bonnie Mbuli, Mncedisi Shabangu

This is the true story of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke) and his fight against apartheid in 1980’s South Africa when there were three millions white people in charge and 25 million disinherited blacks. Chamusso worked his way up to a better job at an oil refinery in Secunda. He lived quietly with his wife and daughters, and coached a boys’ soccer team. He had no interest in terrorist antiapartheid strikes, although he was aware of them as shown in the first scene, when his family is searched brutally by South African security, upon returning from a wedding in the country. When his refinery explodes, he is arrested and tortured in spite of being innocent. No longer able to be neutral, he leaves his family and joins the exiled African National Congress terrorist group in Mozambique. He returns under a false name and single-handedly blows up parts of his old oil refinery. He is arrested, sentenced to 24 years on Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned and which reminds me of pictures of Quantanamo), serves 10 years, and is released under an amnesty when South Africa bans apartheid.

Australian director Phillip Noyce (The Quiet American, Long Way Home) researched the historical background for many months. He was aided by the Slovo sisters, Shawn (script) and Robyn (production), daughers of Joe Slovo, who was a leading member of the ANC and later a member of Mandela’s cabinet. The real Patrick Chamusso was on set daily. He lives with his wife and three children and 80 orphans in an orphanage he founded. For details see www.twosisters.org.za. This is just a small slice of South African history, well worth your time and interest, as Tim Robbins confirms after staying there to perfect his role as the ultimate South African Boer, Nic Vos. It’s interesting that some Bob Marley music is used between all the African rhythms. (Becky Tan)

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