South Africa, 1994: Nelson Mandela has just been released from prison and tensions are steadily rising in the final bloody months of apartheid. Tribal factions, backed by the white government, wage bloody war on each other and gunshots ring through the streets of Soweto. In the middle of this are the Bang Bang Club; four young white photojournalists who made sure the world saw the carnage ripping through the streets of their hometown. Based on true events, this film is a harrowing exploration of heroism in the face of violence.
The Bang Bang Club was a nickname for photographers Greg Marinovich (Ryan Phillippe), Kevin Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Ken Oosterbroek (Frank Rautenbach) and Joao Silva (Neels Van Jaarsveld) because they were always in the thick of the gunfire, or the “bang-bang” as locals said. Witnessing the injustices wrought by F.W. de Klerk’s lackeys, the young men knew that the truth had to come out. Fuelled by adrenaline and moral outrage, they risked their lives to document the horrors of the civil war that wracked the nation. With the help of Robin (Malin Akerman), their no-nonsense photo editor, their photos helped focus world attention on the plight of South Africa and galvanize international opinion to end apartheid. Greg Marinovich and Kevin Carter each won a Pulitzer Prize for their astonishing photojournalism, but the horrors they witnessed took a devastating toll.
They also found themselves the object of ire among many black South Africans, who resented the fact that white outsiders were gaining international fame for representing their struggles to the world. Director Steven Silver provides an unflinching look at the politics – and the intense street fighting – in which the photographers found themselves immersed, lending the film a gripping journalist’s-eye-view that drops us into a harrowing moment of history. –TIFF
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