His Big White Self
Please note: This is a follow up documentary relating to Nick Broomfield’s 1991 documentary, ‘The Leader, the Leaders Driver, and the Driver's Wife’.
Now Nicks previous film mainly focused on Eugene Terre'Blanche (the leader of the far-right Afrikaner Weerstandsbeweging movement), his driver (JP), and JP's wife (Anita). Whereas this film mainly concentrates on the changes wrought upon these three people during Nick’s fifteen years absence, as well as how the country of South Africa has changed along with them.
What basically transpired within this hiatus is as follows: JP has divorced his wife, Anita, and is now living with a new beau, whilst working as an Ambulance driver in the townships. Anita lives near her son, and tends to her son’s children whilst working part-time as a chief nurse at a local hospital. And Terre'Blanche has been let out of prison for crimes he has committed, and is now peddling poetry penned by his very own hands.
However, not only has their lives changed during this interim, but also their respective outlooks on life as well. JP largely feels betrayed by the AWB -- because he genuinely believed that they would start a 'Boer revolution' in their quest for a white homeland after the ANC came to power (which they failed to deliver). Anita appears to have made a noted transition -- evolving from a radical champion of white power, to realizing that a minority has no right to govern a majority. In disguise, Nick also manages to meet Eugene Terre'Blanche himself -- assessing that although this particular leopard hasn't changed his spots, his spots have somehow faded during his time incarcerated.
Moreover, this documentary also charters some infamous events which took place within the run up to the abolition of Apartheid, plus the 1994 South African general election. These include:
- When President F. W. de Klerk visited Terre'Blanche's home-town of Ventersdorp, his arrival prompted the AWB to allegedly disconnected the town's power supply and subsequently begin firing on the police.
- Another attack, where the AWB invaded the Kempton Park World Trade Center, near Johannesburg, which was then used for negotiations to end Apartheid between the ANC and the the National Party.
- Yet another invasion, where the AWB, within the tribal homeland of Bophuthatswana, acted as if they were on a hunting party, and killed many civilians in the process.
- The failure to integrate educationally within the town of Ventersdorp, due to the conduct of racist children and teachers alike.
- The killing of the first black mayor of Ventersdorp; a crime which has been brashly brushed under the carpet, even though the evidence on offer was sparse to say the least.
- Plus finally, Terre'Blanche’s cruelty to two black men within his village that led to his eventual incarceration.
After watching the previous documentary relating to 'His Big White Self' -- ‘The Leader, his Driver, and the Drivers Wife’ -- I have to admit, I was mightily confused with the whole thing myself. Now listen. My stance doesn't have anything to do with the actual chronicling of this topic by Nick Broomfield and company. No! Or course not. They did a smashing job in stitching up Eugene Terre'Blanche like a good-en. Rather, it was how I kind of warmed up to both JP and his then wife, Anita.
However, my confusion with the previous program, was when I heard JP and Anita say some of the racist things they said, and took part in some of the things they did... well... it just made me ask the all important question -- if man makes society, and society makes man, does that make man inherently racist?
Just think about it for a moment or two. What makes one person hate someone else due to his or her own ethnicity? Is it like what JP says in this film? Biblical in nature. Or is it like what Anita surmises? Part of the times. That's what I am getting at you see! Is the concept of racism a by product of society and communal pressure? Because it seems that way after watching this program.
Here, check out this piece of rhetoric by JP to illustrate what I am trying to say...
Anyway, enough highfalutin prose for the time being, what about 'His Big White Self', huh? Personally speaking, I thought that it was a marked improvement upon the first installment where the overall scope of the project was concerned. Also, thankfully, for those who haven't watched the previous film (and you should), Nick inserts jovial moment’s which highlight how this story relates to the last one.
For instance, before Nick meets Terre in this film, he recaps his disastrous attempt from his previous film. And from my point of view, I find that this technique makes this piece stand up on its own two feet (film does have feet), without relegating it to 'sequel proportions', but melding both stories into one.
Conceptually, I find that this additional layer really grounds the whole documentary as a slice of documented history, almost as if it were a reminiscence of past failures and lost promises. You can especially see this facet in the 'locals' who Nick interviews in the townships. All of them with a smile on their lips and a promise of a new start in their hearts.
Oh! On a site note. After watching this film a small part of me felt like going to Venterdop just to see if things have changed there myself. But who needs to travel when you have Youtube? Huh? Check this out...
All in all this is a great documentary, and it has enhanced and evolved the original just like the new face of South Africa itself. Say no more.
THE RATING: B+