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Murder most foul

Published Sep 26, 2007


It's an issue that has touched virtually every South African's life and a sobering reality of the state of our existence, which has reached pandemic proportions: crime.

The daily newspapers are littered with tales of yet another hijacking, rape or murder, while the evening news invariably plays out like a horror movie depicting the seemingly endless anarchy.

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For the former Capetonian, Sir Antony Sher, one murder case in particular stood out, namely that of 27-year-old actor Brett Goldin and his childhood friend, Richard Bloom.

A veteran thespian who made the Groot Trek to the UK some 40 years ago in the hopes of securing fame and fortune as an actor (which he duly did), Sher states that he was personally affected by the news of Goldin's brutal death last April.

So much so, he admittedly became somewhat obsessed with it and it was this fixation that ultimately gave birth to the disconcerting documentary, Murder Most Foul.

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The doccie, which had its world premiere on the UK's Channel 4 network last night and will be screened in South Africa for the first time this evening, "examines the dark underbelly of crime in our young democracy … using the Goldin and Bloom murders as a starting point."

Just what was is it about this double slaughter among the many that so distressed Sher?

Well, had fate taken a different turn, Sher would have found himself acting alongside Goldin in a Royal Shakespeare production of Hamlet. This, because at the time of his death, the Crazy Monkey actor was just four days away from jetting off to London, where he was about to kickstart his career into the big time.

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"I kept thinking, what if this had happened to me 40 years ago, before I had had a chance to realise my dream?" Sher is quoted as saying.

It was with this thought in mind, as well as his despair at seeing the country of his birth being so consumed by violent crime, that drove him to contact fellow SA-born (and multi-award winning) director, Jon Blair.

Together, the two set about compiling Murder Most Foul, which is essentially aimed at uncovering "the harrowing truth that 13 years after the arrival of democracy in South Africa, the country is suffering one of the highest murder rates in the world."

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For his part, Blair (an outspoken activist against apartheid, who chose to go into exile in England) outlines that his motivation for getting involved in the project stemmed from his view that "my film is trying to create a dialogue about crime, because something needs to be done about it … South Africans are at war with each other."

But while Blair and Sher's motives may seem very noble, there are two glaring questions that must be asked:

Firstly, what makes two ex-pats the authority on any socio-political situation in this country, especially considering that they haven't lived on local soil for the better part of four decades and can therefore hardly relate to post-apartheid life in South Africa?

And secondly, how does simply placing a spotlight on crime and taking viewers through a depressing journey detailing the stories of those who have fallen victim to it, provide a viable solution to the problem?

People who tune in to watch the documentary will probably also find themselves feeling disgruntled by the way in which much of it is pervaded by questions of race.

What makes the predictable white-versus-black slant all the more disappointing within this context, is that in opting to go this route, Blair and Sher inadvertently serve to imply that one racial group is more affected by the pandemic than any other (an insinuation thwarted by crime statistics), and that any one loss of life is more or less disturbing than another, based on colour lines alone.

That said, the documentary features comment from highly respected personalities (including former Archbishop Desmond Tutu and acclaimed novelist, André Brink) and, given that the government has mostly turned a deaf ear to the public outcry against crime, perhaps they will be more willing to stand up and take action, now that heavy-weight international figures are waving their banners.

- A Carte Blanche Special: Murder Most Foul. On Wednesday night on M-Net at 9pm.

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