* Ryan Phillippe plays award-winning photographer
* Photographers 'wired' differently
* Stirring memories of violence
By Solarina Ho
TORONTO, Sept 18 In the final years of
apartheid, four South African photojournalists went to
extraordinary lengths to capture the horrors of poverty and
violence in images that made international headlines.
"The Bang Bang Club," which had its world premiere at the
Toronto International Film Festival this week, documents how
they bore witness to the traumatic events of 1991 to 1994
leading to the end of white minority rule in South Africa.
For South African director Steven Silver, who now makes his
home in Toronto, the film was very personal and close to many
of his own experiences with the anti-apartheid movement.
"I've been working on this film for many years. Almost a
decade I've lived with it. And I'm not ready to say goodbye to
it," Silver said in an interview with Reuters.
The film focuses on rising tensions and fighting during
that time between Nelson Mandela's African National Congress
and the Zulu-dominated Inkatha Freedom Party in which thousands
of people were killed in the run-up to the country's first
While a number of photographers worked alongside the
"club," the group was made up primarily of Greg Marinovich
(played by Ryan Phillippe), Kevin Carter (played by Taylor
Kitsch), Ken Oosterbroek (played by Frank Rautenbach) and Joao
Silva (played by Neels Van Jaarsveld).
Marinovich, who won a Pulitzer for his image of a burning
man being attacked by a machete, and Silva, were on set for
nearly all of the 30-day shoot last year.
"We've had a long history and a long journey together,"
said Silver, who first optioned the rights to their life story
about 10 years ago after meeting with Marinovich and Silva,
before the two photographers' book by the same name was
For Marinovich, Silva and many others, reliving the events
-- nearly all filmed in their original locations -- was
'TOO MANY MEMORIES'
"There were days where they were on set and had to leave,
because it resurrected too many memories," said Silver, adding
that both photographers admitted to showing signs of
post-traumatic stress in the period after the film shoot.
The real Robin Comley (played by Malin Akerman), a photo
editor close to the photographers, collapsed in shock during a
visit to the set after seeing Rautenbach portray Oosterbroek.
Silver recalled her saying, "'It's like looking at Ken.' It's
like we brought him back to life."
Oosterbroek was killed in cross-fire just days before the
1994 election that marked the end of apartheid.
Silver said research showed that physiologically, combat
photographers were "wired" differently. But that did not make
them better equipped to deal with the aftermath, said Silver.
"South Africa's history is not only alive and well, it's
very raw for the people who live it," he said, adding there was
pressure to tell the story right.
He recalled that during one shoot, a woman came out of her
home and screamed. The crew was filming a massacre where 40
people had died, but in this case, decided not to film in the
original location. What filmmakers did not realize was that an
even bigger massacre of 150 people had taken place in that
"This woman walked out of her house and she walked out into
a flashback, to an image she had seen 15 years ago," he said.
Locals also came out and showed the cast and crew old
magazines that carried photographs Marinovich had taken of the
scene they were in the middle of filming.
Some residents ended up playing themselves in the film.
Silver said he had been asked why his extras were such strong
"I explained that they're not acting, they're
(Editing by Peter Cooney)