This review is a snippet of a longer review I wrote about the Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival (Sheffield Doc Fest for short) which is were I first saw Miners Shot Down:
Miners Shot Down
I had made a pact with myself that I would try to add more variety in the type of documentaries I watched at this year’s festival. I wouldn’t recommend watching Act of Killing back to back with Valentine Road. It’s not good for the soul. I wanted to mix things up with some more entertaining fare. What a wonderful way in which to honour this promise than to watch a disturbing film about the massacre of 34 miners in South Africa in 2012.
Miners Shot Down is an involving yet horrifying examination of the days leading the massacre that occurred in August 2012 when South African state police were given orders to intervene with a seven day strike held by thousands of miners protesting for a living wage. The “intervention” proved to be the greatest example of bloodshed since the end of apartheid. Filmed like a thriller with live footage from the perspective of the Marikana miners and testimonies from parties on all sides, director Rehad Desai reconstructs and reveals the exploitative power structure of big corporations allowed to flourish in a South Africa rife with inequality and corruption. On a grander scale, the doc holds a disturbingly reflective mirror to the rest of the world, demonstrating how one example of how a rotten power system of which encourages profit through exploitation and flippant regard to human life is just a drop in the ocean of a sea that is the corporate world.
The film’s structure is compelling, buoyed by the very informative presentation conducted by a lawyer currently representing the miners who linked the treatment of the South African miners, to those throughout history and countries. From Australia to Sheffield miners, they are all unified by the brutal treatment at the hands of the establishment becoming heartbreaking symbols of the consistent repression and destruction of basic human dignity.
It might not have been the ideal Opening Night film (I’m told they’re supposed to be all about celebration) but it’s a powerful film that stays with you. It’s message is disheartening (in particular the mine concerned is the British owned Lonmin Platinum, which further negates the argument that colonialism and it’s inherited attitudes have disappeared from Africa), with the exploration of the moral decline of the likes of Cyril Ramaphosa, ex-Unionist and once right hand man to Nelson Mandela, now millionaire deputy president of South Africa, who seems quite at peace with renegading on his beliefs to such an extent that the old saying “Do as I say not as I do” can lead to death if you choose not to comply. The lack of empathy for those in a situation he once was is sadly symptomatic of African politics. Ramaphosa himself acknowledges the way in which prosperity and power poisons a man’s morals. Status becomes the ultimate mantra of a newly rich man and if maintaining that status means the stunting of other’s progress and the progress of your country as a whole – then so be it.
The fact that the incident, so recent and so raw, has barely had any international coverage, and the obvious police coverup left unacknowledged is a sad indictment of our supposedly global society’s view on the value of human, particularly African, lives.
For tickets to tomorrow’s screening of Miners Shot Down at Hackney Picturehouse:BUY TICKETS
For the whole article and to check out other stuff on The Station Agent Speaks, follow this link:
Check back in tomorrow for more reviews from Film Africa Bloggers Central.