Catch A Fire (3 stars)

(12A) 101min


Just a decade before South African State President FW de Klerk un-banned the ANC and other anti-apartheid organisations, and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on 11 February 1990, many people were suffering in the name of equal rights. One such man was Patrick Chamusso (beautifully played here by Derek Luke), the son of migrant workers who had become a middle ranking employee in the country’s medieval mineral mines. Bad luck and harassment from racist police detective Nick Vos (Tim Robbins) drove Chamusso to travel to Angola and train up under Joe Slovo’s ANC rebels (exactly what Vos had originally accused him of being when he was in fact totally innocent). A game of cat and mouse ensues between these two protagonists as Chamusso prepares an act of terrorism on the huge Sasol oil refinery at Secunda.

Directed by the always dependable Australian filmmaker Philip Noyce (Rabbit Proof Fence, The Quiet American) and written by Joe Slovo’s daughter, Shawn Slovo, Catch a Fire certainly has a fine pedigree. Working on the basis that any reasonably intelligent viewer will pick up on the analogy between the current state of emergency evoked by allied forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and on the homefront, and the paranoia of South Africa’s then white ruling minority, the film proves a worthy, occasionally compelling dramatic thriller. Good performances all round are slightly undermined by Slovo’s simplistic, schematic screenplay, but this is certainly one film with its heart in the right place.

General release from Fri 23 Mar.

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