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BOPHA!

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Danny Glover, Malcolm McDowell, Alfre Woodward, Marius Weyers
Director: Morgan Freeman
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 118 Minutes
Release Date: February 1, 2005

"NO MORE AFRIKAAN!"

Film ***1/2

BOPHA-"to arrest or detain" in Zulu.

Having experienced the emotionally striking Hotel Rwanda in theaters just recently, I'm thankful in many ways to the filmmakers who have brought the tragic events that have occurred in Africa for the longest time. The best thing films like these can do is bring awareness to such a horrific travesty that is happening in the world. The Bruce Willis action drama Tears of the Sun was another good example, and actor Morgan Freeman's directorial debut, Bopha!, is indeed another.

Though released more than a decade ago, Freeman's film brings forth a most important tale of the overcoming of terror of apartheid in 1980, South Africa. The film also brings out the strongest performances in its cast, particularly that of Danny Glover, who's playing perhaps his most complex character to date.

Glover plays Micah Mangena, one of the top sergeants of the South African police force. He has a happy family life with wife Rosie (Alfre Woodard) and son Zweli (Maynard Eziashi). Micah hopes for his son to follow in his footsteps and become a member of the police force. As it turns out, Zweli is against the beliefs that the police force is upholding.

In addition, troubles are escalating amongst the townsfolk, in particular the students at the schools, who are protesting the very teachings of Afrikaan instead of English as a first language. At the time, the government's decree is that Afrikaan be taught as the primary language. Although both are European tongues, Afrikaan is spoken only in South Africa, while English is considered to be the very language of freedom.

The police force's highest ranking branch officer, DeVillers (Malcolm McDowell), orders immediate police force on the students who are gathering up to rebel against its own government. In order to put an end to the protests, DeVillers orders his men to apply extreme acts of force such as torture and even death. This will test the morals of the men of the force, and not just Micah, but several white officers who even see that what is going on is highly wrong.

Despite Micha's honor as a cop, his son ensures that he will not stop protesting by any means. This puts the father and son relationship into a serious conflict. Micah is even forced to apply use of teargas on a crowd of demonstrators, including his son, which results in tensions escalating even further. It takes a while for Micah to fully acknowledge that what he is doing is a crime in itself, to the people of his country.

Like Hotel Rwanda and Tears of the Sun, Bopha! brings forth serious issues to the screen and demands our attention. Though the incidents in the film happened a good 25 years ago, we can't do anything about it, except to gain a sense of compassion and humanity, as well as acknowledgement that even today, the continent of Africa is still ignored of the many problems (death by diseases) which occur even in today's world.

This is a major filmmaking accomplishment on behalf or Morgan Freeman, and extracts a passionate performance on behalf of Glover and the rest of the cast.

Video ***

Paramount's anamorphic transfer does a terrific job of enlivening the African setting, reminding us that it's the most beautiful of places in the world. The image is of crisp and magnetic quality. Several dark sequences don't pan out as well, but don't distract from the overall presentation.

Audio ***

The 5.1 mix serves this powerful drama extraordinarily well. Dialogue is spoken with outstanding clarity, and the astounding score by James Horner is enough to give this presentation an extra level of credit. A perfect presentation all around.

Features **

Featured on this disc is thoroughly informative commentary courtesy of Morgan Freeman and stars Danny Glover and Alfre Woodard.

Summary:

Though the events in Bopha! are way in the past, this film serves as a reminder of a traumatic time for Africa, and that we should never turn our heads on the problems in this continent should something as horrific ever occur again. A most powerful film.

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