Camera Shots

The Bang Bang Club is a real-life account of the celebrated quartet of cameramen whose shockingly brutal images of conflict and death informed the world about the horrors of South Africa during the final phase of apartheid.

Ryan Phillippe stars as Greg Marinovich, a budding combat photographer who first impresses and ultimately surpasses his veteran colleagues by going into the townships where whites were almost certain to be killed. He discovers that the seeming “tribal warfare” between Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress faction and the Zulus from the rival Inkatha party was in part being covertly orchestrated by the white government to justify state violence and to perpetuate apartheid.

Although Marinovich wins the Pulitzer for a horrifying photo, the photographer still struggles to come to terms with how his work requires neutrality and emotional objectivity in the midst of overwhelming violence.

As Marinovich makes the transition from neophyte to veteran, the film settles into a deliberately jarring rhythm: the lensmen risk death in the war zone by day, then obliterate their rattled psyches with booze-fueled parties by night. Bang Bang is an engrossing, highly realistic film by documentary filmmaker Steven Silver. Although Silver needed to dramatize the film’s provocative moral questions with more subtlety. M

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