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Fokofpolisiekar: The Movie
Genre Documentary
Year: 2009
 
Review:

Fokofpolisiekar (fuck-off-police-car) are a five-piece Afrikaans punk band that hail from Bellville, Cape Town. When they formed back in 2003, they wanted to broadcast a lifestyle and spirit that reflected the state of affairs for Afrikaners in South Africa. Their complex heritage had left a generation of Afrikaans youth stranded; feeling displaced and alienated in their own country and it was time to forge ahead. Their heritage, the Church, enforced traditions, guilt for an era they had no control of… it was time to fight to be heard.

Fokofpolisiekar: “Forgive them for they know not what they do” is a rockumentary that covers four difficult years for the band, as they carved their names into South African music history. The journey for fame and recognition was wrought with challenges from detractors within Christian circles, the media and their own culture. Launching a band with a name like Fokofpolisiekar was bound to be controversial almost anywhere, and flying a flag for freedom of expression while sticking it to an imposed social identity was destined to make their story a trial by fire. This is more than a rockumentary, it’s a quest for truth, self-identity and a courageous effort to heal deep-seated wounds by cutting through scar tissue.

This music documentary is directed by Bryan Little of Fly on the Wall and follows Francois van Coke (vocals), Hunter Kennedy (guitar), Johnny de Ridder (lead guitar), Wynand Myburgh (bass) and Jaco Venter (drums) as Fokofpolisiekar. The band are introduced and interviewed on everything from the formation of the band to life on the road and their personal beliefs. However, a rockumentary wouldn’t be anything without the music and the exploits of their explosive live performances.

Fokofpolisiekar have earned respect amongst the Afrikaans literary community for their simple, yet poignant lyrics. Their decision to launch as an Afrikaans punk band instead of aiming for the “easier” path to international recognition was a brave move for any aspiring artist. However, their strength of conviction generated an army of fans for life overnight, who were hungry for music that resonated with their teenage angst, experiences as "displaced" South Africans and the stigma associated with their complex pasts.

Adored or detested, these punk rock heroes have become a household name in South Africa with 5 albums, a list of awards and big concerts in their wake. Their music is dark, untamed, heartfelt and meaningful, evoking feelings of anger, rebellion and self-loathing. Their punk anthems bridge the language divide, creating a new space for Afrikaans music and reaching both Afrikaans and English fans, even cracking the playlist with tracks on 5fm.

Liam Lynch’s live concert photography is raw, powerful and tangible with beads of sweat, rip-roaring riffs and in-your-face attitude lifting off the black and white images. These iconic live moments punctuate the documentary with moving stills as the band’s loud music fills the air. Little incorporates live footage showing van Coke’s physical performance as he puts his body on the line, Myburgh’s animal driving energy on bass, De Ridder’s talent and musical prowess, Venter’s dexterity behind drums and Kennedy’s all-encompassing stage presence.

The production has all the bells-and-whistles when it comes to representing the band’s brand, projecting the same cool, edgy vibe as their marketing campaigns. The band members each have a chance to express themselves with an emphasis on Myburgh and Kennedy. The short, sharp, editing and cool visuals complement the compelling behind-the-scenes band stories. The social documentary aspect of the film, makes Fokofpolisiekar: The Movie more than just about a band, and more about the Zeitgeist of South Africa in the 2000s for kids born in the '80s.

The film will not only appeal to fans, but will generate a new wave of listeners thanks to the film festival and cinema exposure with English subtitles unveiling some of the meaning behind the lyrics. While the Fokofpolisiekar rockumentary is more than competent, it loses something in the live performances, relying on their studio produced tracks instead of using real recordings from the live beast with ambient audience feedback. This is mostly disguised by smart editing, but doesn’t complete the full circle for the introspective behind-the-scenes look-and-listen it promises. Then sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll rockumentaries are the reason we have films like Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Fokofpolisiekar tends to fall back on these genre conventions to establish a sense of rock 'n roll ownership,  and seems to be holding back on the cold hard truth some of the time.

All in all, Fokofpolisiekar is a quality South African production that works both nationally and internationally. The film transcends the bounds of a typical rockumentary, by blending both social and musical perspectives seamlessly into an inspiring, courageous and encouraging story. It holds the attention of new recruits, who will get Fokofpolisiekar 101 and a taste of the music and will literally blow fans away. It’s a socio-political time capsule that will make an even more interesting retrospective 20 years from now. If you're a South African and you like Rock music, it's a must-see.

The bottom line: Streetwise.

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