Hi-Five: Catch A Fire – Patrick Thibedi



I just got back from seeing the Cath a Fire, a biopic about the life of former South Afrikan political prisoner Patrick Thibedi, called Patrick Chamusso in the film. As you’ll notice, the film stars African American actor Derek Luke as Thibedi/Chamusso, and Tim Robbins as Nic Vos, the head of “Anti-Terrorism.” Since I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the film and how I felt about it, I’m gonna run down the virtues, which will probably make for a very fragmented review. Heeere we go:

  1. This film is not about Nelson Mandela or Steve Biko…it is about a very relatable ‘every man’ who would probably never get more public/communal recognition for his courage and compassion than the moment of welcome all of the freed political prisoners from Robben Island received when the ship reached S.A.

  2. Patrick Chamusso, the character, is human. Throughout the beginning, the audience is entertained by how apolitical Chamusso is. We are shown that Chamusso feels that his fight is to keep his family clothed and fed and keeping his wife from learning about his love-child. Even as he is subjected to an invasive search and harassment by the police, Chamusso feels no camaraderie with his coworkers (read: the people) as they sing freedom songs to celebrate the ANC’s successful bombing of the chemical plant where they work. So, when he finally has his breakthrough moment – when he begins to see clearly that as a working-class black Afrikan man, he and his family would never be safe or comfortable, while they were still subject the brutality and oppression of apartheid. His change is believable.
  3. We see a more inclusive rendering of what it was (is?) to live in and fight against apartheid. Though the film relies on the audience having foreknowledge about the reality of apartheid as a system and that it wasn’t just the random acts of violence by morally corrupt whites, they use the time that would have spent giving a political history of S.A. to empathetically dramatize the politicization of an ‘every man,’ the armed wing of the ANC, and that the boat arriving from Robben Island carried many with Mandela who should be remembered, celebrated, and inspiring.
  4. The freedom songs were ubiquitous, beautiful, and well-contextualized. Now, don’t tell anyone, but I still haven’t seen Amandla!: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony, so I can’t say how the sounds and rhythms of Catch a Fire compare. However, the moments where I felt most emotionally connected to the story and scenes where during the singing at the ANC funeral (RIP Betsey) and when the former political prisoners were welcomed home by the singing and hugs from their mothers, daughters, brothers, sisters, uncles, and comrades in the struggle of life.

  5. I liked that they production company went out of their way to show how many South Afrikans they employed and had as apprentices and interns on the film. If peek at the end credits, you’ll notice how many of the jobs that go unnoticed in any kind of production are listed, including “props truck driver” and “costume breakdown.”

+1) Derek Luke’s accent was sonorous enough to be forgetable…meaning, I stopped noticing that he was speaking in the melodies of a language foreign to him.

I’m going to try to post more about the problems I had with the film tomorrow. You can donate to Patrick and Conney Thibedi’s work housing and caring for parentless children, learn about his life, and read a review of Catch a Fire at the Two Sisters (their NGO) website. Also, read an interview with the writers of the film and Tim Robbins. Also, read a review of the film from the Village Voice here.

Patrick Thibedi


~ by Anayah on October 29, 2006.

One Response to “Hi-Five: Catch A Fire – Patrick Thibedi”

  1. Despues de haber visto la biografia de Patrick Thibedi, nos deja un mensaje muy importante para la humanidad, el deseo de ser libres sin ataduras ni temores, libres en la mente, libres en el corazon y libres en las manos.

    El hombre pobre del mundo no tiene la oportunidad de reclamar a la vida un mejor futuro, por que siempre hay otro hombre que se lo negara, y Patrick Thibeni encarna esa voz anonima y desesperada por un mundo mejor, lucha por sus ideales y ofrece su vida por el bienestar comun.

    Podria resumir el ejemplo de vida de Patrick Thibeni como ese …”Arbol de la montaña que tiene raices fuertes y profundas, con ramas poderosas, de sabia muy amarga, pero de frutos muy dulces”…

    Gracias Patrick Thibeni por tu mensaje.

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