The Bang Bang Club
Director: Steven Silver
Writer: Steven Silver
Based on: Greg Marinovich‘s and João Silva‘s autobiographical book The Bang-Bang Club: Snapshots from a Hidden War
Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch, Malin Akerman, Neels Van Jaarsveld, Frank Rautenbach
Seen on 06.03.2015
The Bang-Bang Club was a group of photographers in South Africa who chronicled the rebellion against apartheid in the townships. Most notably among them were Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Greg Marinovich (Ryan Phillippe), Ken Oosterbroek (Frank Rautenbach), and João Silva (Neels Van Jaarsveld). When Greg takes up the job as photographer, he is quickly noticed by the more established photographers, especially Kevin, because of his willingness to take risks, a quality all four of them share and that makes their work extraordinary. As they throw themselves into the documentation of the fights and the violence, they are not entirely unaffected by it though. And the question remains whether documentation alone is enough or whether more action isn’t needed after all.
The Bang Bang Club was okay, but in the end it doesn’t move past its being a movie about a few rather unlikeable white guys being reckless and inconsiderate. And there are too many of those already to be interesting anymore.
There is a lot to the story in itself, but the film doesn’t really manage to make it interesting. Instead it drags on and on and you keep on wishing that they would just get to it already (whatever ‘it’ is). And somehow they never do.
I think that’s mostly due to the fact that I just didn’t like the protagonists. They are portrayed as every dudebro’s ideal: heroic, fearless, uncompromising and wise-cracking, and then they become even more heroic when the things they see take their toll and they still keep at it, despite their issues. It also doesn’t help that the only woman who gets a bit more characterization than sexy trophy for the tough guys, is still a sexy trophy for one of the tough guys, only she also has a job.
The film also has a weird relationship with race. Despite being set in South Africa, there is barely a black person in the film who aren’t the object of the photographer’s shots and are by that very circumstance othered and dehumanized. There are a few scenes in the bar where “our” guys talk to black guys, but mostly just so that the film can point out how much “our” guys rule and the others drool. (Imagine one of my eyebrows – the left one to be exact – raised to high heavens.)
Silver has taken a lot of care to recreate the most famous photographs that the guys took. I just wish he had taken equal care with everything else.