"The Bang Bang Club" relives apartheid's last days

Sun Sep 19, 2010 1:20pm EDT
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By Solarina Ho

TORONTO (Reuters) - In the final years of apartheid, four South African photojournalists went to extraordinary lengths to capture the horrors of poverty and violence in images that made international headlines.

"The Bang Bang Club," which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, documents how they bore witness to the traumatic events of 1991 to 1994 leading to the end of white minority rule in South Africa.

For South African director Steven Silver, who now makes his home in Toronto, the film was very personal and close to many of his own experiences with the anti-apartheid movement.

"I've been working on this film for many years. Almost a decade I've lived with it. And I'm not ready to say goodbye to it," Silver said in an interview with Reuters.

The film focuses on rising tensions and fighting during that time between Nelson Mandela's African National Congress and the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party in which thousands of people were killed in the run-up to the country's first all-race elections.

While a number of photographers worked alongside the "club," the group was made up primarily of Greg Marinovich (played by Ryan Phillippe), Kevin Carter (played by Taylor Kitsch), Ken Oosterbroek (played by Frank Rautenbach) and Joao Silva (played by Neels Van Jaarsveld).

Marinovich, who won a Pulitzer for his image of a burning man being attacked by a machete, and Silva, were on set for nearly all of the 30-day shoot last year.

"We've had a long history and a long journey together," said Silver, who first optioned the rights to their life story about 10 years ago after meeting with Marinovich and Silva, before the two photographers' book by the same name was published.   Continued...