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Fatherland

Fatherland
"Do you know who the enemy is?" asks the leader of the Kommandokorps to the boys sitting in front of him.
 
He asks who is responsible for the rape, the farm murders and the many other deaths in South Africa. He asks who is to blame for the atrocities that they hear and read about on a daily basis.
 
No one needs to hear their response. Sadly, the audience knows exactly what he is implying.
 
Fatherland is a documentary that every South African needs to see.
 
It tells the story of 15 impressionable Afrikaans boys who, under the pretence of a disciplinary camp where paintball and camaraderie are on the agenda, endure a brutal basics training excursion and are submitted to racist indoctrination.
 
The boys are told that the "lies" that they have been fed through various media outlets about the 'Rainbow Nation' and 'Mandela's South Africa' have alienated them from their heritage and their forefathers. They are scolded when they combine Afrikaans with English and are instructed to only speak the former.
 
 
 
At one point, the boys observe a ritual where the South African flag is set on fire while the Oranje Blanje Blou flag of the old South Africa is hoisted to the singing of Die Stem. 
 
Throughout the film, black people are referred to as 'lizards' and the idea of a separate state where only Afrikaans people can live is suggested as a solution to the inevitable race war that, at least in the minds of the camp commanders, is going to happen.
 
In its 70-minute running time, Fatherland shows a world which South Africans know exists but have never seen. And it is precisely because none of this is all that surprising that it is so shocking. Racism is still a serious issue in the country, and the fallout of apartheid is constantly visible, but here it's singled out and broadcast through a megaphone.
 
Director Tarryn Crossman, however, also manages the impossible. She shows these characters as the humans they are and, in the briefest moments, evokes sympathy from her viewers.
 
 
She shows people who feel disenfranchised and lost in a nation they feel has forgotten about them. She shows young kids who want to emulate their fathers and do right by a lineage that they've been told is stronger than their inferior neighbours', so they allow their minds to be moulded.
 
Some children do question the camp and its ethos, but are too afraid to speak up for fear of being ostracised. At the same time, they help struggling camp members during arduous physical activities.
 
Fatherland is breath-taking, beautifully shot and incredibly thought-provoking. It seizes on questions many people ask about their place in society, wondering how they fit into the promises of the new South Africa. Perhaps it will even make you look at your own race, or others', through a different lens.
 
For better or worse, what the film highlights is that the nation we live in is not necessarily the one we were promised.
 
Image credit: Graham Boonzaier
by Daniel Gallan
'Fatherland' is a documentary that every South African needs to see as it deals with Afrikaans culture and insecurity. http://bit.ly/1FxgS9g

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