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Katarina Hedrén
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Katarina Hedrén

Steven Silver, South african filmmaker

A scene from the movie

Frank Rautenbach, Neels Van Jaarsveld, Taylor Kitsch and Ryan Phillippe in The Bang Bang Club

Ryan Phillippe stars as Greg Marinovich

Taylor Kitsch stars as Kevin Carter in The Bang Bang Club

Taylor Kitsch (Kevin Carter) & Ryan Phillippe (Greg Marinovich)

Ryan Phillippe (as Greg Marinovich) & Malin Akerman (as Robin Comley) in The Bang Bang Club

A scene from the movie

The Bang Bang Club, by Steven Silver
Meanwhile people were dying

In the hands of filmmaker Steven Silver, the group of South Africans photographers that rose to fame under the name The Bang Bang Club; Kevin Carter, Greg Marinovich, Ken Oosterbroek, and João Silva, are reduced to one-dimensional, greedy and self-absorbed adrenalin junkies.

This dude-flick opens in a Soweto tunnel during the height of the conflict between the ANC and the Inkatha Freedom Party in the not yet liberated South Africa. Silver's versions of Greg Marinovich (Ryan Philippe) and Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch) lock eyes over the body of a dead man and a beautiful friendship begins.

Silver lets the four white daredevils run in and out of townships like wildlife photographers, capturing hordes of black people dancing, drinking, dying, running and killing each other. One of the few exceptions to these unsophisticated and brutal stereotypes is the legendary photographer Alfred Khumalo (played by himself), who by Silver seems to have been assigned one task and one task only; to defend the gang from criticism.

In Silver's dude-universe where dead people equal more pay, the band of four celebrates death and destruction and becomes disillusioned and restless at the thought of peace. In case the audience should feel that the foursome is having just a tad too much fun, Silver lets the black photographer Sonny (Nats Ramabulawna) - another rare exception - confront our dudes once or twice with accusations of arrogance and cynicism.

The testy and super vain bunch (with exception for Kevin Cartner, whom Silver portrays as a hopeless romantic and drug addict) reacts violently to any form of criticism, with accusations of jealousy or, when circumstances around certain photos are questioned, with irrelevant objections that "the photo is fucking amazing", as if that was the issue.

If black people are reduced to savages or noble victims, and the Bang-Bang Club members to superficial rock stars, Silver's representation of the girlfriends (the only female characters in the film) is equally poor. Like the Spice Girls each girlfriend has her own way of pleasing her man, be it giving him a blow job while he's working, patching him up after a fight or waking up to pose nude before an intruding camera. Greg's girlfriend Robin (Malin Akerman) who is the only woman with a profession and a hint of a personality, is constantly there to reassure him and refers to his coldness and obsession as just an "occupational hazard". Silver's policy that one person has to die for another one to live better is further reinforced when Ken (Frank Rautenbach) has to die in order for his girlfriend to get dressed and stop pouting her mouth.

One of the few redeeming moments, that comes out as rather misplaced in this insensitive piece, is Vusi Kunene's moving performance as a grieving husband and father. Silver, not really trusting the audience to empathise with the character, quickly kills the moment though, by adding girlfriend Robin's tears to the mix.

"What makes a great picture?" is the question that opens and closes the film? "One that asks a question" is the answer. Pity Steven Silver couldn't watch his own film before making it.

Katarina Hedrén

The Bang Bang Club (2010) is an adaptation of the book The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War by Greg Marinovich and João Silva.

Review first published on Katarina's blog (In the Words of Katarina).

Silver's version of João Silva is played by Neels Van Jaarsveld

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   liens films

Bang Bang Club (The) 2010
Steven Silver

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Silver Steven

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Videovision Entertainment
Afrique du Sud | JOHANNESBURG

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Bang Bang Club (The)
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