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South Africa, the Apartheid, and the Devastating Effect on Three People
AFTER THE RAIN, made in 1999, has only recently been released on DVD. It is most welcome to the library on the examination of human rights as they come into conflict in Africa. Ross Kettle, who based the film on his play 'Soweto's Burning' and directed this cinematic version, achieves more insights into the racial conflagrations as focused on three people than most of the most major films released on the subject.
The film opens when the main characters were children and caught up in the marked division between whites and blacks that interfered with their childhood games and friendships because of the cruel prejudices imposed by their parents. In 1972 Steph (Paul Bettany) a conflicted Afrikaans soldier, is in love with Emma (Louise Lombard), a dancer for the theater. Steph is due to depart with his brigade and spends his final nights with Emma: Emma promises to wait for him, pleading with Steph to come back alive. Steph leaves and Emma returns to her job, a theater where the lighting manager is a black man Joseph (Ariyon Bakare). One evening Joseph aids Emma with her car and Emma in turn offers Joseph refuge: Joseph is without a place to stay except in the streets. The fact that a white woman and a black man even talk is dangerous and it is with great hesitation that Joseph accepts Emma's kindness. Gradually the two become true friends, able to dissolve the disparity that is destroying the nation. But when Emma finally and innocently offers Joseph to sleep in her bed instead of on the floor, the crisis occurs: Steph has deserted the army and returns home to Emma's flat and finds the two in bed: he thinks the worst and becomes enraged.
The bulk of the film is the enclosed argument and confrontation among the three young people, facing all of the ugliness and prejudice that crippled South Africa. When the three are at the peak of being threatened by the conflict, Emma is accidentally shot and the manner in which Steph and Joseph face this with its touching outcome makes this an indelible memory for the viewer.
The cast includes some very fine South African actors who allow us to see the stances of each side of the sociopolitical line. But it is the powerful performances by Louise Lombard, Paul Bettany and Ariyon Bakare that make this film ignite. It is to the credit of Ross Kettle to make the history of the struggle so potent by using significant flashbacks to the characters' childhood dilemmas and the spare use of external shots that make the tension and moments of quiet acceptance so pertinent. A major problem with the DVD, however, is the lack of subtitles, a factor that prevents us from understanding the varying accents with which the general public is not familiar. But that is a small defect in an otherwise very fine film. Grady Harp
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