Friday, April 23, 2010

Finishing "JOHANNESBURG" -- with an appreciative, paying audience

Watching the seventh and final episode of Connie Field's HAVE YOU HEARD FROM JOHANNESBURG -- discussed earlier on this site here and here -- at a surprising well-attended (for a weekday afternoon) Film Forum, brought home even more clearly what a monumental achievement this epic documentary is.

Ms Fields, in her last segment, takes us back to the beginning in brief glimpses that underscore the ironies and struggle, as well as the enormous amount of time that has elapsed in the half century since this struggle began. While this does make for a bit of repetition, it is welcome because it better prepares us for what we're about to see.

Yet, rather than pile on the congratulatory good feelings, the producer/director chooses to end her film in the way that she began it.  We see the image of a man -- as respected as any in the world today -- standing in front of the august body which, except for its sleazy Security Council, has long supported him and his cause. This man smiles with his enormous, full-bodied grin and then takes his seat in a chair and crosses his legs. Nearly perfect in its simplicity and humility, it's the capping moment in a film that has many extraordinary ones.

New Yorkers and those in the tri-state area have until this coming Tuesday night to see this major work, which concludes just as the South Africa's majority finally obtains its goal of one person/one vote and elects Nelson Mandella. At that point, of course -- just as when Obama and his administration took the place of that failed group of Republican looters here in the USA -- more (and every bit as difficult) work began.  Narrative films and documentaries coming out of South Africa from now on will have the not-so-easy task of explaining all this.

If you have not yet seen two other films about South Africa released last year, one taking place in the past, the other as current as tomorrow, I'd advise you to see them both: Disgrace, which, for my money, is last year's best movie, and Skin, which tells the based-on-truth tale of "color" in a manner I guarantee you will not have heretofore encountered.  While I cannot ascertain when the DVD release of Skin will occur, the DVD of Disgrace will appear this coming Tuesday, April 27. Queue up now.

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