James Gregory once lived in a farm and had befriended a native youth, Bafana, and had even had a photograph taken with him. Years later, now married to Gloria and father of three children (Chris, Brett, and Natasha), James has nothing but shame and regret, as many South African Caucasians in the oppressive Apartheid-era ridiculed him, leading him to hate Africans. He seeks to redeem himself by spying on imprisoned African National Congress Leader, Nelson Mandela. In the restrictive high security prison his job is to censor all written and verbal communications between prisoners, their visitors, and correspondence. James is uncomfortable when he witnesses Caucasian police and security officers' brutality against civilians, including infants, and tries to understand why Nelson became a rebel. This leads him to examine the 'Freedom Charter', a banned document, reportedly known to incite violence against 'whites'. And when he does read this document, he changes his mind about Nelson's ...Written by
When the car explodes in front of an office building after two officers walk by, the blast should have shattered the office windows (and there are sounds of breaking glass), yet they remain intact. See more »
Joseph Fiennes has always looked a bit like a spider monkey in my view, but in this movie he was better than in any role I'd seen him in before, doing what I thought was a competent job with the South African accent as well. Finally exempted from having to play the sex symbol, Ralph's little brother could finally concentrate on actually challenging himself with a complex role. In a movie based upon a true story, Fiennes plays James Gregory, a racist South African guard whose certainties are nonetheless shaken to the core over the span of twenty years the time he spends as Nelson Mandela's prison warden. The movie's merit lies largely in showing us the daily application of a major historic abomination Apartheid through the lives of "little people", those ordinary men and women of South Africa thanks to whom it was perpetuated. These are "ordinary" white people who are neither heroes nor villains, but obtuse conformists. The violence of the system on its white citizens was considerably more hidden than on its black ones, but it was violence all the same: it was the obligation to remain as ignorant as possible. The alternative was to be persecuted by the status quo.
Dennis Haysbert as Nelson Mandela was suitably stoic and charismatic, a positive counterpart to Forest Whitaker's villainous Idi Amin from The Last King of Scotland. Diane Kruger was definitely better cast as an "ordinarily" racist, suburban hairdresser wife and mother of two, than as Helen of Troy. By the end of Goodbye, Bafana, I was also somewhat moved. My major complaint with the movie was that like the vast majority of African-set, historical movies made recently, Nelson Mandela and all the black African characters were largely viewed from the outside, through the whiteys' eyes. These movies' directors all need to sit in a darkened room and watch The Battle of Algiers together sometime
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