Goodbye Bafana is yet another film whose subject is Africa. It bears similar resemblance to Blood Diamond and The Last King of Scotland in that it tells us a story in Africa through the eyes of a white man. This film differs in that, unlike the other two films, and more like Hotel Rwanda, the man actually existed and is based on a true story.
The story starts with a prison warder setting off from Cape Town to Robben Island prison. Of course, the prison warder, played by James Gregory, isn’t a well-known character, but the man he is sent to guard personally is Nelson Mandela, of the ANC, and a significant player in the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa.
The film shows South Africa under apartheid, through the eyes of an average white African family struggling to make a living. It shows their ignorances and their prejudices. It also shows how Gregory’s history, his interaction with Mandela and his quest for truth slowly changes his life, for both good and bad.
Compared with the other African themed films, this film doesn’t go to great lengths to portray the violence carried out by all parties, but concentrates on the relatively mundane existence of the Gregory family. Whilst it’s view of South African life is from a certain perspective, it is fairly even handed in its dealings. I’ve never lived in South Africa, so I have no idea how realistic the setting is, and I’m fairly sure that if I did, my experience wouldn’t be the same as that of the Gregory’s!
The situation is a complex one, and any attempt to make it appear simple, with any one party being good and any one being bad, would’ve been very misleading. One slight niggle is that the film only really shows the parties to be white and black, whereas there were several differing black factions.
The only other niggle is that there isn’t as much about Mandela, but it does provide you just enough information to want to know more.
As with all the recent African related films – well worth seeing. However, don’t go in expecting light entertainment – You’ll need to keep your brain plugged in to fully appreciate this film and be prepared to come out with more questions than answers. Whilst the object the the struggles was a noble one – equality for all, regardless of colour. You do wonder about the methods employed.
May God bless Africa!