Tuesday, February 04, 2014

"Tell Me and I Will Forget": the unreported truth about South Africa after the end of apartheid, and it isn't pretty

Tell Me and I Will Forget” (2010, 72 min, by Justin Salerian) depicts South Africa fifteen years after the official end of apartheid, and presents, through the eyes of three young male EMS workers. a chilling and disheartening picture of the daily life of crime and violence that has not been widely reported to the rest of the world, even in the recent major documentary about Mandela (Dec. 25).  The film has two subtitles, “Show me and I may remember” and “Involve me and I may understand.”
  
The gap between people with money and people without, after so many years of apartheid, is so great that the problem is uncontrollable.  Johannesburg itself is falling to crime;  a once popular area of bars and nightclubs called Hillbrow is now abandoned to gangs, and even 5-star hotels in the heart of town have to abandon their property. While in the US we have are slums (like the South Bronx in the 1970s), blacks in South Africa live in shantytowns near the gated communities of the white middle (and sometimes black) middle and upper class.  Even inside the enclaves, average residents have to set up security measures that are unheard of in most western countries. 

There is a sequence where the EMS responds to a tenement fire caused when a poor person tries to rewire the building to have electricity in an amateurish fashion.

Time magazine has an article (motivated by the Oscar Pistorius case) on gun control in today's South Africa. About 10% of the population is armed legally, but the article notes that personal weapons are seen as mandatory at home because of home invasions, which have not generally been discussed in the media outside the country a lot.  
     
Two-tiered emergency medical services exist, the government one, and a layer of private medical companies for rich people, like Netware 911.  The public system typically cannot get ambulances to poor people in time to save their lives, so EMS workers have to improvise.  The workers refer to their home town as “Jo-burg”.
  
   
I film also gives a quick history of apartheid in black and white, tracing it back to colonialism by Britain and the Dutch.  It gives only the briefest mention of Mandela, however.
    
I watched the film on Netflix instant play.  Oddly, the film had vanished from my queue and cannot be reserved now, but it still will play.  It has also been available from Snag Films.  I'm a little surprised I haven't heard about this film before.  

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