REVIEW: A SNAKE GIVES BIRTH TO A SNAKE
By Qiniso Mbili
This eye opening documentary explores the complex process and progress of South Africa’s reconciliation from its apartheid past. Producer Michael Lessac, through intergration of theatre and film, assesses how far South Africa is with reconciliation.
Fana Mokoena, Nick Boraine and Thembi Mtshali-Jones are some of the members of the diverse cast that tour globally performing about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which is captured and watched as a movie.
The theatre play within the documentary divulges the intricate yet sensitive role of the interpreters during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They had to listen to the gruesome testimonies of victims and victim’s families without getting emotionally attached. One such reveals that this was one of the hardest roles to play as they had to be “just a pipe in which information passes through.”
With every performance actors engaged with the audience in talk back sessions in which they thoroughly discuss the state of reconciliation in that particular country. This was partly done to compare how far South Africa had come and where she is with her reconciliation.
After an outstanding performance in Northern Ireland, the documentary shows an argument that ensued backstage between actors Nick Boraine and Bongani Gumede because of an audience member question that Gumede felt was not appropriately answered. Telling South Africa’s story and relating her challenges during her time of apartheid evidently took a tall on the actors too.
The tour starts in Rwanda where they discuss reconciliation in context of the Hutu-Tutsi genocide, then goes on to Northern Ireland where they discuss the conflict between Republicans and Loyalists and it ends in Serbia where they tap into the Yugoslav wars.
The performances evoke emotions and the actors discovered through interaction with their audiences that some countries have it much worse compared to South Africa’s apartheid. This film makes one realise that almost every country has its own inner demon to fight.
South Africa is celebrating her 20 years of democracy this year making the documentary more relevant. It underlines the important role that art plays towards reconciliation by educating the masses while initiating the fundamental conversation between victim and offender.
A bonus is the never heard before Hugh Masekela songs written from some of the TRC testimonies. Appearances by Dr Alex Boraine, deputy chairperson of the TRC and Max Du Preez, multi-award winning veteran political commentator, give the film more political depth as they offer their analysis of South Africa’s reconciliation.
After watching this piece of art then the title A Snake gives Birth to a Snake starts making sense.