The Bang Bang Club – Review

11 Oct

Being a conflict photographer is one of the most insane jobs that there is. Running into a battlefield armed with nothing but your camera with a mission to get the best photograph possible, no matter what the cost, seems like a fool hardy endeavor. To them, it’s their life work and something that they are very proud of, and for the rest of us, we are provided with pictures of global violence that help us understand what is actually happening in the world. In The Bang Bang Club, a segment of a group of people’s lives are shown, with drama that didn’t just happen at the scene of conflict, but the physical and emotional baggage that came with their job.

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Between the years of 1990 and 1994, a group of photographers, nicknamed the Bang Bang Club, opened the eyes of the public to what was happening in South Africa during the time of the Apartheid. The members of this group are Pulitzer Prize winning photographers Greg Marinovich (Ryan Philippe) and Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Ken Oosterbroek (Frank Rautenbach), and João Silva (Neels Van Jaarsveld). At the scene of violence, they have no problem stepping in the line of fire and following the horrors to get the best picture. Off of work, they struggle with everything that they have seen and the different moral issues that go with being a war photographer. These stresses threaten not only their careers, but also their personal relationships and their own health.

It’s going to be hard not comparing this movie to 5 Days of War, a movie I reviewed a little bit ago and thought it was a pathetic excuse of a movie when it was really just propaganda. They both deal with the same themes of reporting violence and the morality the surrounds these people. The Bang Bang Club fortunately succeeds in all the places 5 Days of War failed. This film doesn’t try to tun itself into an action film or take a side of one of the warring factions. Writer/director Steven Silver shows both sides, but more importantly sticks to tell the story that he wants to tell: the lives of the photographers.

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The most interesting part about this movie is that I learned about some of the photographers in school and have seen a lot of the really famous photographs that they have taken, but never actually knew too much about them. There are times in this movie where a photograph is recreated and we get to see it from the perspective of the photographer taking the picture. It really puts the pictures we all know in a different perspective, from the motion to the different view. Another good thing about this is that the film makers worked closely with the real Marinovich and Silva to get the most accurate portrayal of the truth that they could get. This just makes The Bang Bang Club more rewarding to watch.

I’ve mentioned that there is an interesting moral tale in this movie that seems to cause these photographers a lot more stress than they are already dealing with. One of the most famous photographs taken by Kevin Carter is of a child on the ground in the Sudan with a vulture lurking in the back. This is an incredible picture that really captures a smaller, yet tragic, moment in the history of the Apartheid, but with all of the recognition that came with the picture, a lot of anger towards Carter followed. People asked why he didn’t help the child or scare the vulture away. The fact that there isn’t much these photographers can do besides take a picture is a large theme of the movie that is very interesting to anyone, but especially to those interested in journalism and/or documentary film making.

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The Bang Bang Club is a very interesting movie that tells a story I don’t think many people have heard. This isn’t so much a movie about the Apartheid, but about the photographers whose job it was to capture it. At times this movie is distressing, at other times it feels almost adventurous. Capturing modern history is important, now that we are really able to, for archiving and raising awareness. It’s a dangerous job that this movie has now shown, and I definitely recommend The Bang Bang Club.

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