Macho Overload: Ryan Phillippe as War Photog in The Bang Bang Club


The Bang Bang Club
Directed by Steven Silver
Tribeca Film
Opens April 22, Village East

“Yes, I think we all used her,” Eve Arnold once said of Marilyn Monroe. “I think as a photographer, one has to accept the fact that one does invade other people’s privacy.” If photographing a movie star poses an ethical dilemma, what questions are raised by combat photography? Writer and director Steven Silver offers a few roughly drawn possibilities in The Bang Bang Club, the story of a real-life troupe of photojournalists in South Africa in the early 1990s. “Forget the long lens,” Kevin (Taylor Kitsch) tells Greg (Ryan Phillippe), who aspires to join Soweto’s merry band of war photographers. “This stuff only looks good up close.” That “stuff” is the crescendo of civil violence that precluded the end of apartheid, and newspaper head honcho Ken (Frank Rautenbach) and his crew are making a meal of it. Greg breaks into their inner circle and the pants of his photo editor (Malin Akerman), then wins a Pulitzer for capturing a particularly gruesome murder. Silver treads around and too heavily on the moral ambiguities involved in documenting atrocities, moving between frantic, poorly explained scenes of African conflict and the equally familiar, benumbing aesthetic of boys making a macho game of war.

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I think what you forget though is that this all really happened! The Bang Bang Club is an amazing book documenting these guys lives taking photos in South Africa's bloodiest era. I found the movie stuck very closely to the truth and didn't Hollywoodise it at all.I felt it accurately portrayed what these guys must have been feeling - the ambivalence, guilt but also the passion they have for their profession. I mean it is a fact that Kevin Carter was heavily criticised for his Pulitzer prize winning vulture picture and that he did commit suicide, and that Ken Oosterbroek was killed whilst on the job.I would take that into account before giving such a glib review.


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