Review: The Bang-Bang Club and Ryan Phillipe’s toughest challenge

Ryan PhillipeSo Ryan Phillipe’s taken on the daunting task of playing photojournalist Greg Marinovich. I’m not sure if the cherub-faced man-boy is up to this gut-wrenching story, but let’s see where it goes. Here’s a review of one of my favourite autobiographies.

bang-bang-club2Relentless, honest, personal, and grating: just like the Bang-Bang Club shot its photos of a bleeding South Africa. We’ve all seen their images at one point or another in the years leading up to, and after, the first free elections. These are the unrestrained words of the few good men who took it upon themselves to visually document the dying days of apartheid. We run with them as they sprint through the war zone townships that burnt even as the police and army were supposedly trying to bring the situation under contro. We see through their how the South African army invaded Lesotho to bring “stability to the country when it’s elections turned violent. But most of all, we hear through Marinovich and Silva’s writing about their hellish inner worlds, the frayed emotions and broken relationships, which eventually led to hefty drug abuse and suicides that tore up the ranks of such good friends, such a rare band of brothers.

Ken OosterbroekMarinovich and Silva’s documentation of the fame which the Bang-Bang club achieved, as well as the deaths of their close friends and colleagues Ken Oosterbroek, Kevin Carter, and Gary Barnard, reads like a Faustian contract. They tell their own raw and deeply moving stories about the time when bullets flew, people butchered each other in Thokoza, Soweto, Kathlehong, Boipatong and Bophuthatswana, often with laughter on their faces. But the most memorable aspect of this story is the sharp edge of ethical dilemmas which these photographers were constantly balanced on: how far do you go to get the shot. Can you set your humanity aside in a camera-click instant so that the real story can be told to the world?

Ken Oosterbroek's most famous photoMarinovich and Silva make no attempt to analyse the complex political situation of the time. To try this would have been folly. Blunt and to the point, they tell it like they experienced it.

Read the book to the music of:
Shawn Philips
Midnight Oil

Check out Ryan Phillipe appearing as Greg Marinovich in the new Bang Bang Club movie.

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