Tuesday, September 04, 2012

"Endgame": a drama showing how apartheid in South Africa ended


Endgame” has been used a lot as a movie title (and there is an obscure cable series about a chess player which I’ll look into later), but one of the most important recent films was apparently made for PBS Contemporary Masterpieces, about the end of apartheid in South Africa. The limited theatrical release was distributed by Monterrey.

Pete Travis (director) and Paula Davis (writer) created the historical drama (2009) of the negotiations that led to political revolution in South Africa as Mandela (Clarke Peters) remained in prison.

William Hurt plays Professor Willie Esterhuyse (of Afrikaner culture), who is recruited by Michael Young (Johnny Lee Miller), from a British mining company to help bring about a political change, as corporations in South Africa waked up to the fact that they need domestic peace in order to become profitable again. There was, a history shows, a “libertarian” motive for peace, an idea you would hear at the Cato Institute.  At one point, the professor is warned that he will be a “soft target” of terrorists and that he has to learn how to protect himself and his family.

The other component in the struggle was the ANC, the African National Congress, with leader Thano Mkebi (Chiwetel Ejiofor).

There’s a nice quote, “Talk is cheap”.  Chapter 6 of my first book begins with those words!

In the interviews, actor William Hurt says that a “social contract is an arrangement where people give up some personal freedom for security and stability”. 

The PBS official site is here


Paula Davis, in the interview, says that in tense battles over liberty, negotiators need to be away from the limelight.

One of the producers (David Aukin) says that inspiration for the film came over lunch, over a general discussion of “secret talks”.  Remember Camp David in 1978?  That was hardly secret. The other producer (Hal Vogel) explained how the script had to strike a balance between the intimacy of the talks, and the action outdoors.  

I’m reminded of “Cry Freedom” (Richard Attenborough), with Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline (Universal Pictures) which I remember seeing at Northpark in Dallas in 1987, during the midst of the apartheid struggle often covered by Ted Koppel then on ABC Nightline.

For today’s short film, I recommend a wonderful TV commercial by Norfolk Southern Railroad – the best and most intricate model railroad ever shown in the media.  I also recommend Regal Cinemas’ animated space station.  

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