Movie review – Miners Shot Down: Devastating cinema

2014-06-03 15:33

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Miners Shot Down

Directed by Rehad Desai

Ster-Kinekor Cinema Nouveau, Joburg and Cape Town

A few days after watching the Marikana documentary, Miners Shot Down, I go through my notebook and find that it runs out of notes about 15 minutes into the film. It literally left me speechless.

Sure, we’ve seen the tragedy before, clattering across our TV news screens live. But we haven’t seen it played out like this – in a gritty chronological sequence over the course of a week leading up to the devastating shooting at the Lonmin mine.

Here we see events unfurl from several different angles – from security cameras to police cameras to TV news cameras. Interspersed are interviews with key players and stakeholders.

The miners share their lives. The police obfuscate stubbornly. The mine – notably then Lonmin non-executive director Cyril Ramaphosa – avoids the difficult questions.

Steadily, the events are played out in numbing horror. Yes, the police are that hardened, yes the miners are that desperate, yes the capitalists are that greedy. Patently there is collusion between state and capital. Reality check. This was all planned and executed.

But it really doesn’t matter where your politics lie, I dare you not to be moved by the humanity of the victims at Marikana.

As you watch, emotion takes over, empathy with the miners, anger at the capitalists, helplessness at the lack of accountability. Tears as the guns start firing live ammunition, mowing down the strikers.

We’ve never seen the bigger picture even though this ground-breaking documentary is really just an introduction to the events and their underlying issues.

The world looked different when I emerged from the cinema. It doesn’t often happen to me.

Shuffling silently out into the light, I am acutely aware of my fellow moviegoers, afraid of bumping a little old lady next to me, afraid of hurting anyone at all. That’s the effect the film had.

Rehad Desai’s documentary brings the miners to the fore with a terrible poignancy and an equal measure of urgency.

In the foyer, some of the surviving strike leaders – the “stars” of the film – are there and the City Press photographer takes their pictures. It’s a premiere after all, but it won’t make the social pages. It’s an antisocial social, a bit of a socialist social.

Like 12 Years a Slave, this is difficult viewing. It’s not leisure-time fun. But I dare you to put aside the romcoms and actioners and artiness for just one night and go and watch Miners Shot Down.

Aside from the fact that a part of the proceeds are being used to buy food for miners and their families, this is worth seeing as the official opposition version of events.

Even so, Miners Shot Down is dispatched clinically and with an air of objectivity. But it’s patently clear, by the end of it all, that it’s also the version the state would prefer you didn’t see.

It marks, for me, a new era for the political documentary in South Africa.

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