Monday, November 5, 2007

Obstinacy, Teenage Characters

For his first film as a director, Chris Menges directed Shawn Slovo's screenplay A World Apart,
set in South Africa in 1963. The story is told from the point of view of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl trying to reconcile herself to her activist parents, a theme taken up more recently by Julie Costa-Gravas in Blame it on Fidel, though with more humor,less narrative drive and perhaps fewer dramatic peaks. The dilemma being that activism demands time and dedication that children feel belongs to them. A World Apart is particularly successful in foregrounding political situations while developing strong characters.
There are separate full-fledged interviews with both Slovo and Menges in the book done after the film was screened at the NYFF; in spite of huge critical acclaim for it as a political drama, the film was only kept in theatrical release for a month. At the time I had just started teaching at Columbia, or was about to, and once a year selecting films that especially moved me
from the NYFF to write about. next on this topic: Why this one and not that...

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