Prawn Cocktail

 To tell the truth, I am not entirely looking forward to the release of “Invictus”, Clint Eastwood’s film of John Carlin’s magisterial book, “Playing the Enemy”, starring Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Matt Damon as Springbok captain François Pienaar. The book, director, and actors promise a knockout  picture, of course,  and one dares hope it will reinforce positive memes about South Africa’s better angels. What I dread is the accents.

Freeman has the instrument to approximate Madiba, to be sure, at least his cadences.  What really has me worried is Damon as Pienaar. No actor in the English-speaking world outside South Africa has ever been able to capture English as spoken by an Afrikaner. New Zealander Sam Neill came closest as Sandra Laing’s father in the recent “Skin”. Leonard DiCaprio had his moments in “Blood Diamonds” but could not sustain them and a lot of the time what he managed was little better than parody.

None of this is an issue in “District 9”, the instant sci-fi cult classic that opened in America on Friday. Working on a relative shoestring — $30 million — South African born director Neill Blomkamp cast South Africans as South Africans. Not only did it save him a lot of money which he was able to put into giving the cinema verite style movie its astounding look and feel, but, surprise, it turns out that South Africans can play themselves really well. In Sharlto Copley, who plays the antiheroic hero Wikus Van Der Merwe, South Africa has its very own Sasha Baron Cohen of Borat fame.  Copley is an accidental actor. In his day job he’s a producer. Blomkamp took a brilliant chance. Continue reading “Prawn Cocktail”