A suspense thriller set in South Africa in the same vein as the politically oriented and popular The Constant Gardener. The film follows human rights lawyer Sarah Barcant (Academy Award-winner Hilary Swank, Million Dollar ... more »Baby, and Alex Mpondo (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Four Brothers) who find their lives changed forever by a hearing in the small town of Smitsriver. Police officer Dirk Henricks (Jamie Bartlett), is seeking amnesty for acts of torture he committed under the apartheid regime. Alex, once part of an illegal anti-apartheid movement, was one of Dirk's victims. Now living in New York City, Sarah returns home to Smitsriver to investigate Dirk?s crimes.« less
Jan H. (vladadog) from E FAIRFIELD, VT Reviewed on 1/29/2010...
This was an incredibly powerful film. Ejiofor plays a man who was tortured during the Apartheid years and comes before the "Truth and Reconcilliation" committee many years later in an effort to find out what happened to a friend of his seized and tortured at the same time he was. The "trial" and the flashbacks to the past create a vivid picture of how both blacks and whites were profoundly effected by the Apartheid regime and South Africa's efforts to put those years behind it.
I have read reviews on other sites that complained about Swank, an American, and Ejiofor, a Brit, playing South Africans rather than having South Africans in the lead parts and while I think it would have been nice to have South Africans play South Africans I also can't complain about the job Swank and especially Ejiofor did. Is the film perfect - no, not at all, but it tells a tale too easily overlooked and forgotten. At least with Swank and Ejiofor in the lead parts perhaps more Americans will watch it and that would be a very good thing.
A South African policeman asks for amnesty for tourturing a
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 07/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"After the end of Apartheid in South Africa the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up as a court-like body that would hear the stories of victims of violence, while perpetrators of violence could also provide testimony and ask for amnesty from prosecution. The idea was to put the past behind and move forward, but only by fully acknowledging the atrocities of the past. I think of what happened when Mary Tudor returned the Catholics to the English throne and the blood purge that took place and how her sister Elizabeth Tudor refused to return the bloody favor when she became Queen. Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon also comes to mind, and the desire to end the nightmare and move on. The TRC had the virtue of forgiving, but not forgetting, providing of course that people admitted their crimes, otherwise they would still be liable for prosecution and punishment.
"Red Dust" is one of several films that have been made about the work of the TRC, which includes the 2000 documentary "Long Night's Journey Into Day." It is important that we understand there are other films about the TRC out there because the story of "Red Dust" is really a variation on the main theme and not a direct look at what happened with the TRC in South Africa. In 2004 there was South African film "Forgiveness" about a disgraced ex-cop seeking forgiveness from the family of an activist he killed, "Country of My Skull" had Samuel L. Jackson as an American reporter looking into the case of the most notorious torturer in the South African police, and "Zulu Love Letter" is about a journalist who has to face the demons of her past because of these public hearing.
In director Tom Hooper's film the twist is that when police officer Dirk Hendricks (Jamie Bartlett) files for amnesty for brutally beating and torturing Alex Mpondo (Chiwetel Enjiofor) for a month, although his victim refuses the label. Mpondo has become a member of parliament and apparently a rising political star who shows up only because he wants to find out what happened to Steve Sizela (Loyiso Gxwala), who was arrested at the same time and was never seen again even though the police claim he was released. Mpondo's legal counsel is a New York district attorney, Sarah Bascant (Hilary Swank), a South African ex-pat who once spent in a night in prison when she was a teenager for dating a black boy. The problem is that if Hendricks is pushed too far he has some information that can kill Mpondo's political career.
Or at least he thinks that it can and one of the contrivances of this story is that it takes Mpondo a while to figure out that how to disprove what Hendricks has to say when he finally pulls out his trump card. Mpondo does get to the same point, but he takes the long way round to get there. Enjiofor plays the pivotal character in the drama, haunted by both his memories of what happened and the gaps in that memory as well. Swank appears to be in the film to give it a recognizable name, always good for raising funding on a movie that is going to touch nerves and not resemble in any way shape or form a feel good movie, but her character is fairly pedestrian even with her ties to this past. Still there is enough here of value to at least round up on "Red Dust," and there is a moment at the end that makes it clear that the TRC was a two-sided sword."
Not a perfect film but powerful, moving, and WELL worth watc
Yvonne | USA | 01/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a deeply moving depiction of the painful and difficult, yet morally essential, process of finding truth and arriving at forgiveness through the relatively recent and important work of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Besides the substance of the story, much of the cinematography is beautiful.
Reviewing the book by the same title, by Gillian Slovo, on which the film is based, Publishers Weekly said "underscores that 'the full truth' is more complex than court transcript or verdict can ever reveal. ...The reader can almost taste the dust and feel the heat of the stultifying locale; the scatter of words in Afrikaans enhances the absorbing, fast-paced narrative. Amnesty hearings are meant to bring closure to the violent period that ended apartheid by forgiving crimes by former officials, where possible. But this powerful novel full of legal and emotional twists and turns strips bare the torment forever ingrained in victim and jailer alike, a torment that runs through all segments of post-apartheid society."
And these comments apply to the film as well. Deserves widespread viewing, though parts of it are difficult to watch because of the brutality, pain, and sorrow shown so vividly. But then that's what makes the film excellent and important.
Thank you, HBO."
"We Have The Right To Say That It Hurt ~ Equitable Law In So
Brian E. Erland | Brea, CA - USA | 01/25/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"`Red Dust' released in '04 is a well produced, intelligent drama dealing with amnesty and apartheid in South Africa. This is not a true life account like the story of Steven Biko as chronicled in the '87 film `Cry Freedom' but it still carries quite an impact none-the-less. Obviously the distributors of this DVD wanted to make this comparison with the Denziel Washington, Kevin Kline movie, just look at the covers of both DVD's and the similarity will become immediately apparent.
Similar or not, `Red Dust' is an engaging wonderfully acted film that can stand on its own merits and boasts two stars of equal caliber, Hilary Swank and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
True or fictional `Red Dust' is a thought provoking film on the Civil Rights movement in South Africa that deserves a viewing or two. Place it next to `Cry Freedom' in your DVD library."
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 06/11/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Red Dust (Tom Hooper, 2006)
Not a bad little flick, for what it is, but certainly not what I was expecting. Sarah Barcant (Hilary Swank), a lawyer who was born in South Africa but presently resides in New York, returns to South Africa to represent Alex Mpondo (Children of Men's Chiwetel Ejiofor). As discovery and trial unfold, a complex network of cover-ups and lies emerges, eventually encompassing most of the affluent inhabitants of the district, all of whom have been suspected of crimes which were never proven.
It's slow, and often seems less like courtroom drama/conspiracy thriller than it does Victorian-era locked-room mystery. This is, of course, not always a liability, as long as you know that's what you're in for. Recommended if you've got a couple of hours to kill. *** "