AWFJ Women On Film – “Bang Bang Club” – Susan Granger reviews
examine the ethics and psychology that propels these real-life thrill-seekers to risk life and limb on a daily, if not hourly basis. Instead, he romanticizes their reckless derring-do.
In 1994 in chaotic, apartheid-torn South Africa before Nelson Mandela took office, combat photographers Greg Marinovich (Ryan Phillippe), Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Joao Silva (Neels Van Jaarsveld) and Ken Oosterbroek (Frank Rautenbach) thrust themselves into the conflict between the African National Congress (ANC) and the government-backed tribal factions. Often traveling together in the same car, yet highly competitive about getting the ‘best’ and most memorable shot of the anger and pain, the adrenaline-propelled foursome become known as the Bang Bang Club.
As the story begins, Greg is a newcomer, working freelance and hoping to land a post on the local newspaper, along with selling his shots to international syndicates. Propelling his career is Robin (Malin Akerman), a photo editor (Malin Akerman) who loathes dating lensmen but cannot resist his advances. But the romantic element is minor compared with the skirmishes in which the men focus their lenses on the brutality and violence associated with South Africa’s first free elections.
“I think they shone a light on a war in which over 20,000 died in four years,” says Silver. “If they hadn’t taken those pictures, the world would never have known of the terrible price that was paid in what was apartheid’s last battle.”
Although he was inspired by Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva’s book, Silver merely skims the surface of a subject previously explored in feature films like “Salvador” and “Before the Rain” and documentaries like “War Photographer” and “Robert Capa: In Love and War.” Which is surprising since Silver previously executive-produced the powerful Rowandan portrait, “Shake Hands With the Devil.”
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Bang Bang Club” is an infuriatingly ambiguous 5, just missing the mark.