I am apprehensive about watching films centred around the apartheid struggle because it's an experience I have never lived. When it comes to South African films I am moved by stories that I can relate to. My childhood was filled with brilliant films, set in the struggle and my parents exposed us to them so we could have an appreciation for our history. Now, my taste in film is geared towards more contemporary stories, that reflect the social climate that we live in. Even though we no longer live in the Apartheid era, remnants of that oppressive system are littered all over present day South Africa and the struggle of millennial South Africans, is as a result of our history.
A group of talented young filmmakers decided to tell the story of our country's history. The manner in which they did it, is not the typical apartheid story. They tell a story of a family and the consequences of an oppressive system to a family unit. What I find inspiring is that a group of people born right at the end of the Apartheid era could articulate this narrative in such a profound and unusual way.
The Hangman follows the story of Khetha who works as an executioner, for the apartheid regime. His father abandons him and his mother at a very young age and Khetha's mother never tells him why. He grows up and eventually has to leave school to take care of his ailing mother. He finds a job in a prison; which comes with consequences, particularly for a black man living in the townships during that time. To protect himself and his family he leaves home in regular work clothes as opposed to exposing his identity which would get him killed for being a collaborator with the Apartheid government. His father returns to his life as a prisoner to be executed and the true reason for his disappearance becomes known to Khetha.
The writer of the film puts the narrative together in a way that the story is not about Apartheid but perhaps the consequences of an oppressive system on a family living in South Africa in the 70s. The film runs for 31 mins which is not a lot of time to get into the nuances of the protagonist's life. The writer and director Zwelethu Radebe, tells the story in such a way that information isn't given to you on a silver platter. He gives you subtle clues that point to the horrors of the regime and how they affected 'normal' family life. We see it on a minute scale as opposed to the mass abomination that was apartheid. There are many different ways that terror can manifest itself, and there are many ways to render someone to subhuman status, Radebe explores this in a vivid yet indirect way. Forcing the viewer to contemplate and reflect on what they have consumed.
Through innumerable acts of violence, the Apartheid government succeeded in fracturing the very core of the family unit. Khetha's father is forced to leave his family for an act he commits against the government, an act that isn't political but the duty of every father and husband to protect their family.
This is an amazing production from a team of millennials, that truly explores the psychological effects of the system on family life.