The trenches of South Africa in the 1960s, in the grip of apartheid—the equivalent of the American Civil War fought on foreign soil—continue to provide fertile material for movies fueled by the flames of morality, conscience and the struggle for human rights. Along the way, new heroes are discovered and old oversights corrected. The latest is Black Butterflies, a footnote to history about the rebellious, courageous and tragic life of South African poet Ingrid Jonker (triumphantly played by Carice van Houten, the rangy, riveting Dutch star who skyrocketed to world acclaim in Paul Verhoeven’s World War II saga, Black Book). She’s not the only person to defy the government and speak out against racism during apartheid, but her story is unique because the odds she faced to improve conditions and ameliorate the fate of the disgraced country she loved were overwhelming. As the daughter of Abraham Jonker, the powerful, mean-spirited minister of censorship, she had no one to turn to for approval.
It wouldn’t be accurate to label British-born Rosemary Harris “the first lady of the American theater” as long as Julie Harris (no relation) is still alive. But with all the other greats long departed, she’s pretty much in a class by herself. For a good example of just how rare her patrician yet persuasive ability can be in holding a restless audience spellbound in an otherwise painful and pedestrian play, all you have to do is get through the Roundabout revival of The Road to Mecca at the American Airlines Theater on West 42nd Street. For the record, it marks a celebration of her 60th year as a Broadway star. Even as a baggy, arthritic old eccentric with shapeless gray hair clinging to worn sweaters better suited to a dust bin, she is positively divine, but she deserves a better vehicle.
This dreary fugue about independence of the mind and soul in South Africa is a crashing bore by Athol Fugard, the overrated, long-winded playwright whose debatable reputation as the most important voice in South African theater has been inflated beyond justification simply because he’s just about the only voice there is.
“What are we going to do about Oklahoma?” an audience member asked Howard Dean last night at the 92nd Street Y on the Upper East Side.
Actually, Dean explained, Oklahoma is a lot like New York. “But New Yorkers are quicker on their feet about cognitive dissonance.”
Everyone picks a candidate according to his Read More
Jimmy Carter’s use of the word “apartheid” in the title of his new book has generated a lot of controversy—the Washington Post reporting that a Middle East scholar has angrily resigned his affiliation with the Carter Center over Carter’s book. The Democratic Party has of course banished Carter over the word, and, Read More
Every now and then in life, and maybe just when you want it, god throws down a thunderbolt. It happened to me on Friday in Hebron, in the Occupied Territories. A group of seven Israelis and I were sitting in an Arab man’s house, discussing the harassment and denial of movement to Palestinians in the Read More
As a detour from the beaten paths of stupidity and boredom that have come to symbolize contemporary filmmaking in general, a new thriller with Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, directed by the crafty and polished Sydney Pollack, automatically gets the adrenalin going. So what a disappointment when The Interpreter turns out to be so muddled, Read More
Many non-Jews are invited to a Passover meal, or Seder. ( Seder means “order” in Hebrew.) The array of ritual foods and ancient prayers can be baffling for a newcomer. Also, the question arises: “What does one talk about at a Seder?” As a service to our readers, we supply a series of surefire conversation-starters. Read More
Lawyer fled apartheid to study law, bring Jefferson to South Africa; won Fulbright, fell in love; rakes in the Benjamins, for business and charity alike.
Marco Masotti made partner at one of the top New York City law firms, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, at the age of 32. That may be reason enough Read More
Who Owns History?: Rethinking the Past in a Changing World , by Eric Foner. Hill & Wang, 233 pages, $24.
“We must forget the past,” Nelson Mandela once said, hoping that a new South Africa would emerge vengeance-free from its crippling history of apartheid. Eric Foner, a distinguished historian at Columbia University, hears that and Read More
It’s painful to think how an artist as fine and humane as Athol Fugard can see himself as quite suddenly and tragically redundant. You will know that for more than a generation, Mr. Fugard has been the dramatic conscience of South Africa’s agony, and few writers possess a more generous heart. He has never been Read More