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South Africa vs Australia

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No, I am not talking about cricket or rugby.  Having just posted a blog about a Deon Meyer crime novel, I realize I have mostly done posts on books, so I am not really doing the Film part any justice seeing as I have called this blog The South African Book and Film Blog………

The Killing Field

Last month I watched two crime movies, back to back.  The first was an Aussie movie The Killing Field, starring Rebecca Gibney and Peter O’Brien.  I last watched the pair, as a young married couple, Sam and Emma, in the tv series The Flying Doctors.   So it was interesting to see them as two jaded detectives in this movie. The film is about the disappearance of a young girl, in a small town, which then then leads to the discovery of the bodies of five women buried in shallow graves.  It was an enjoyable enough crime film, not a huge amount of action, so for those who like special effects and a rush of adrenaline, this might prove a bit boring for some.

The next movie was Zulu starring Orlando Bloom and Forest Whitaker, and if you want to a watch an action packed movie, South Africa wins hands down.  Three South African Cops, two whites and a Zulu, investigate drug related murders.  Each of the cops has his own personal burdens to deal with, which certainly doesn’t make their jobs any easier, in a country that is known for it’s high crime rate and violent criminals.  Bloom and Whitaker’s South African accents aren’t too bad, and they are great in their roles.  There is one scene particularly that is not for the feint hearted at all.  It is a gory film, but it’s not just about that, it has a pretty good story line as well.  A bit over the top probably, but still a good watch.

Zulu

Back down under, a couple of weeks ago, I watched another Aussie movie, also a crime flick, Mystery Road.

Mysteryroad

I felt it had more depth than The Killing Field.  Set in the outback, an Aboriginal detective investigates the murder of a young Aboriginal girl.  As always, these cops seem to have their burdens to deal with, but then again, cops haven’t got the easiest of jobs, and they see the worst humanity has to offer. Aaron Pedersen plays his role as a brooding policeman well, returning to his home town and is caught between a rock and a hard place, when he joins the town’s all white police force and often condescending attitude towards him and then has to deal with his aboriginal community who are distrusting of him as a policeman.  It’s certainly got a western feel to it, about those on the margins of mainstream society.

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2015

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To all you avid book readers out there, all the best for the year ahead and hope you get lots of reading done!  I make the normal New Years Resolutions, but whether I keep them or not is another story.  Anyway, one of my resolutions is to read more and keep this blog updated more frequently.  At times, I tend to get distracted easily, despite my enjoyment of reading.  The internet and computers have been a blessing, but they can also be a curse if not used appropriately.  Instead of reading or writing/blogging, my real passions, I end up browsing facebook idly, playing the likes of pacman or card games  – in general, just wasting time.  Maybe it’s because I have a job that requires a lot of me, emotionally and physically, that when I’m home and at my computer, it’s easier just to do the easy things, like play games and waste time on facebook, instead of being more productive.  After all, my excuse is I work hard, so when I’m home, what’s the harm in relaxing and being a little lazy?  Well, for me it is harmful, because I am not doing my creative side any justice.  We are all creative as humans, and it’s our choice as individuals as to how we use our gift of creativity that has been given to us.   So, here’s to a creative year.  A year of reading good books and writing about them.

In the last month of 2014, my reads were, Gray Mountain – John Grisham, Lucky – Alice Sebold, and Trackers – Deon Meyer.

Gray Mountain

I have read a few John Grisham books, but not for a while.  This book, set in the Appalachian mountains, in a small coal mining town, was a fair read.  A New York city lawyer, Samantha, loses her job and ends up working, without pay, for a small town law firm, helping the likes of abused wives, single mothers and helping elderly folk with their wills.  Samantha misses the city, and hopes to return, but does realize she hated her job, and feels a sense of fulfillment helping the needy members of society, who are more often than not, left on the fringes, with few people who really care about them.  On the other hand she is bored by the lack of “entertainment” in the small town and misses her old social life.  She takes up the case of a miner who has black lung disease, and in the process learns about strip mining and it’s evils.  The pace was a little slow, but it had a few twists and turns, just enough to keep me interested.  I have always been interested in the mountains, wherever in the world they may be and I guess that’s why I read this book.  Some reviews I’ve read, said the ending was bad, but I’ve read worse, and Gray Mountain wasn’t too bad.

lucky

Lucky, a memoir by Alice Sebold (author of Lovely Bones) is about her rape while at College.  It’s heart wrenching, and she hits you almost immediately with her brutal rape. She describes the aftermath of her rape, how her rapist was caught and convicted and how she dealt with it all.   She also writes about her childhood, her family, and of herself as a person, at that time. Not an easy read.  What do those of us, who haven’t been through something like she has, say?  Very little really.

trackers_400

Deon Meyer, an established South African crime writer, has written numerous books, none of which I’ve read before.  A mystery/thriller, set mostly in the Cape of South Africa, this book has various stories, which all tie in with each other at the end.  This book delves into the criminal underbelly of South African society, with it’s multi layered tale of thuggish criminals, gangs, murderers, those caught up in circumstances beyond their control, and the police and detectives (those ones that aren’t crooked) trying their best to do good jobs in a crime ridden country.  I’ll certainly look for more of his books to read.

Good Morning Mr Mandela and Third World Child

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Good Morning Mr Mandela, by Zelda la Grange, is a memoir by Nelson Mandela’s long serving and loyal assistant.  Zelda takes you on her journey with Nelson Mandela, starting when she was in her early twenties, as a typist in the Presidential office, from first meeting  President Mandela, until she became a trusted assistant.  She tells how she came from a typical conservative Afrikaaner, if not racist background, where her parents and people like her parents considered the likes of Mandela communists and terrorists, people to be afraid of. She takes you on their travels around the world and shares her insights about a great man.  It is a uniquely South African story – where in the world, except South Africa, would a man imprisoned for nearly thirty years, upon his release and becoming President, employ “the enemy” (figuratively speaking).   Nelson Mandela wanted a non racial South Africa and he set the example, which this books shows. Not that race relations are perfect in South Africa, but things would have been so much worse if it hand’t been for Nelson Mandela.

After I’d finished Zelda’s book, I went straight onto another South African book, but wow, what a crazy and thrilling story it was.  3rd world child   Some years ago I read a book called My Traitors Heart by Rian Malan, an intriguing book about an Afrikaans journalist trying to come tor grips with his heritage and the role his ancestors played in apartheid. Towards the end of the book, he writes a bout a man called Neil Alcock, a man who ended up in one of the most desolate, barren and violent places in South Africa, if not Africa.  A white English speaking South African who spoke fluent Zulu and who brought up his two sons in Msinga in Kwa – Zulu Natal.  Neil Alcock and his wife Creina fought for the rights of the locals, people who had no voice and often suffered from the brutalities of the white farmers and the police. They lived like the Zulus, among the Zulus, and as such that is how their boys grew up.  Not only did the Zulus in the area suffer because of apartheid, but Msinga was arid and almost barren, and they fought among themselves, with tribal violence often flaring up, because certain groups often had scores and vendettas to settle.  After all the Zulus are a warrior like nation, and the honorable way to settle arguments was (is) in battle.  Neil Alcock ultimately paid the price with his life, he was trying to make peace, but he made enemies for that, as often happens with such men, sadly.  GG, Neil Alcock’s oldest son takes you on a thrilling ride of his life, from his boyhood growing up in the Msinga bush in the 1980’s, from boarding school and dealing with racist classmates, then the army and onto his young adult years and making his mark in the world.  It might sound crazy, but if you live in South Africa, you’ll know that just this sort of story is more than possible.  Who needs fiction, when you’ve got a true story like this?!  I have camped near Msinga, at a farm called Darkest Africa, and it is indeed a captivating part of the country. During the times I camped there, I knew nothing of the turbulent past of the area, after all, I guess I come from a more safe and cocooned life, almost tame in some ways, and have not experienced violence on the level GG Alcock has. A few years later, I read of Darkest Africa in My Traitors Heart, and all I could think of is, my word, I am a naive little cookie when it comes to the ways of the world.  What occurred to me while I was reading Third World Child, and I grew up in a sheltered “white” life – similar to that of Zelda la Grage, is that you have the Alcocks – a white family, who in the early eighties, move to a predominantly Zulu area and are for the most part accepted by the Zulus as their own – but yet it would have been nigh impossible for a Zulu family to move into a white neighborhood during that time, and be accepted as part of the neighborhood family.  What more can I say?  It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.