Posted by: Paralyzer on Aug 01, 2011
Well if you read the book or were alive during the clubs tenure, you would know that the Bang Bang club refers to a group of photographers who covered political violence in the 80's and the build up to the new dispensattion. By doing so , kept the flag quite high for "combat photography" by winning a number of awards amongst themselves as individuals for their photography with their devil don’t care attitude to danger. So if you thought this was a ganster flick, askies better luck next time. Based on a book written by the two surviving members, the film kind of tells the story of the photographers but neither enhances or builds on the narrative put in the book. So the film ends up being more a-much a-do- about-nothing .
Bank rolled by the Canadians and some South African dow, the film brings to live Kevin Carter ( played interestingly by Taylor Kitsch) and the demons he faced, Kevin Oosterbroek ( played with a calmed demeanor by the South African Frank Rautenbach), Greg Mevronovich ( played by Reese Witherspoon ex -hubby Ryan Phillipe) and Joao Silva (Neels van Jaarsveld). The guys are able to create a bond amongst themeselves that one can relate too and feel. Alas as with most films portraying South Africans , the accents comes and go but that’s a minor irritation that really does not spoil the film. Yet the performances are not bad at all.
There's some cool instances such as seeing the guys iconic photos being re-created, and seeing how they came about. Yet this element is also brought down by a strong sense of voyeurism that never gets to the heart of the matter.
One of the major problem with the film for me anyways is that it has no narrative as such, it is a long string of "events" ,chopped together into a film. The characters come across as adrenaline junkie who got a kick from the danger of being in the “dark and dangerous townships” but no nuance of the time, the complexities of the time nor the impact of what the guys did with the photographs is explored with any form of depth.
The only time the film got interesting for me was when the issue of the infamous photograph of the child stalked by a vulture in Sudan was introduced. That too was handled quite hastily to such an extent that at the end of the film, there’s nothing to mull over or gain from the story. Imagine watching "The killing fields" and not having any emotional reaction to it, that’s the Bang Bang club. It’s more on par with "black hawk down" even in the way the Africans are depicted .
By the time I stepped out of the cinema the film was already fading away from me; so much was left unexplored ;ie the idea of the townships being created as "other" for the photographers (white South Africa in actual fact). Something that continues today the two worlds in one ,one actinga s a negative to the other. The mechanisms of how the photographers worked is not explored fully. The actual political violence is brought forward in over simplistic manner as the Zulus vs the township dwellers which was more complicated than that. Even the idea of is it okay just to take pictures of people suffering and live it at that?
The film left me very cold ,I never finished the book , a collegfue I went with to watch the film summoned very nicely “ maybe there was no greater good or deed to what the guys did than just to get off the adrenalin of being in the heat of action”,mmmmh.