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Red Dust (HBO)
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Red Dust (DVD)
A suspense thriller set in South Africa in the same vein as the politically oriented and popular The Constant Gardener. The film follows human rights lawyer Sarah Barcant (Academy Award-winner Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby, and Alex Mpondo (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Four Brothers) who find their lives changed forever by a hearing in the small town of Smitsriver. Police officer Dirk Henricks (Jamie Bartlett), is seeking amnesty for acts of torture he committed under the apartheid regime. Alex, once part of an illegal anti-apartheid movement, was one of Dirk's victims. Now living in New York City, Sarah returns home to Smitsriver to investigate Dirk's crimes.]]>
Red Dust, Tom Hoopers film chronicling police abuse and corruption in contemporary South Africa, reminds the viewer that apartheid and racism are hardly, if at all, things of the past. Chiweitel Ejiofor plays Alex Mpondo, a black man who is brutally tortured in prison by office Dirk Hendricks (Jamie Bartlett), for his involvement with local civil rights movements. Imprisoned for his brutal treatment of Mpondo, Hendricks requests amnesty and a court trial is organized, for which lawyer Sarah Barcant (Hilary Swank) is recruited to defend Mpondo. Mpondo is a highly-regarded politician, necessitating a subtle defense approach to preserve his career. Sarah defends Mpondo by publicly exposing another aspect of Hendrickss dirty business: the killing of Mpondos friend and ex-political ally, Steve Sizela. As this extremely thick plot unfolds, the viewer begins to understand corruptions complex nature. Cinematically, Red Dust features stunning panoramas of the South African landscape as well as some traditional African ceremonies that both fascinate and educate the average American as to how shocking it must be for a true African to assimilate into white culture. This film interprets not only Mpondos perspective, but, like the novels of Graham Greene or Sheila Kohler, it assesses white guilt in colonial countries. For this reason, Red Dust has an almost documentary feel, though its dramatic narrative makes its fiction clear, as a way to distance the viewer from real pain. --Trinie Dalton
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Top Customer Reviews
"Red Dust" is one of several films that have been made about the work of the TRC, which includes the 2000 documentary "Long Night's Journey Into Day." It is important that we understand there are other films about the TRC out there because the story of "Red Dust" is really a variation on the main theme and not a direct look at what happened with the TRC in South Africa. In 2004 there was South African film "Forgiveness" about a disgraced ex-cop seeking forgiveness from the family of an activist he killed, "Country of My Skull" had Samuel L. Jackson as an American reporter looking into the case of the most notorious torturer in the South African police, and "Zulu Love Letter" is about a journalist who has to face the demons of her past because of these public hearing.
In director Tom Hooper's film the twist is that when police officer Dirk Hendricks (Jamie Bartlett) files for amnesty for brutally beating and torturing Alex Mpondo (Chiwetel Enjiofor) for a month, although his victim refuses the label. Mpondo has become a member of parliament and apparently a rising political star who shows up only because he wants to find out what happened to Steve Sizela (Loyiso Gxwala), who was arrested at the same time and was never seen again even though the police claim he was released. Mpondo's legal counsel is a New York district attorney, Sarah Bascant (Hilary Swank), a South African ex-pat who once spent in a night in prison when she was a teenager for dating a black boy. The problem is that if Hendricks is pushed too far he has some information that can kill Mpondo's political career.
Or at least he thinks that it can and one of the contrivances of this story is that it takes Mpondo a while to figure out that how to disprove what Hendricks has to say when he finally pulls out his trump card. Mpondo does get to the same point, but he takes the long way round to get there. Enjiofor plays the pivotal character in the drama, haunted by both his memories of what happened and the gaps in that memory as well. Swank appears to be in the film to give it a recognizable name, always good for raising funding on a movie that is going to touch nerves and not resemble in any way shape or form a feel good movie, but her character is fairly pedestrian even with her ties to this past. Still there is enough here of value to at least round up on "Red Dust," and there is a moment at the end that makes it clear that the TRC was a two-sided sword.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Yes I would recommend other to watch it at least once.Read more
Not a bad little flick, for what it is, but certainly not what I was expecting.Read more