One of Broomfield's most effective films The Leader, The Driver And The Driver's Wife made during the final days of Apartheid in 1991 so outraged the South African white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche and his followers that Broomfield received death threats and was told that a bomb would be planted in his flat. "I never thought in my worst nightmares that 14 years later I'd feel compelled to track down His Big White Self." But of course, he did, and this new film about the old devil is yet another unmissable piece of filmmaking. Back in 1991, Terreblanche, 'The Leader', commanded more than 500,000 followers in his ultra-white wing AWB and was threatening to engulf South Africa in civil war. Broomfield made no bones about showing what a monster the man was, but by directing the camera at Terreblanche's driver JP and his wife Anita, he also made the subtle point that people with abhorrent racist views are human too. JP and Anita were so fanatical that they even called their pet cat "kaffir", while JP was prepared to kill and die for his extreme beliefs ? but Broomfield managed to get under their skin and show that they too were capable of warmth and affection, and would perhaps have been quite likeable if their politics weren't so hard to stomach. Now, by revisiting the same territory and splicing in new footage with scenes from the earlier film, Broomfield shows how much some things have changed, and how many others are just the same. Today black South Africans are free to go where Terrblanche's masked soldiers used to march, but schools in the bearded demagogue's base town of Ventersdorp are still heavily segregated, while The Leader himself is still, literally, getting away with murder. Anita is as cheerful as ever, but she's divorced from JP. JP himself is still shockingly racist, but in other ways perhaps even more of a sympathetic character. He's a broken man who has been "promised a revolution that never came", furiously smokes the cigarettes he knows are killing him and still talks on camera with ease and unfailing good humour. Terreblanche meanwhile is even more of a revelation. He's as racist as ever, but has been cowed by failure and a (most say unjustly short) period in jail. Now he seems more interested in writing bad poetry than creating havoc and when a disguised and trembling Broomfield manages to get inside his fortified compound to carry out the film's dramatic climactic interview, it's even almost possible to feel sorry for the old man. Almost.
Mar 10, 2006, 16:03:46
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