Writer’s Note: If you haven’t seen this yet and don’t like spoilers, then you don’t want to read this.
The way I understand it, Apartheid was similar to our Jim Crow, where the goal was to protect white hegemony by segregating the races, while allowing each to have their own in some form. Be that as it may, ending Apartheid was paramount and for multiple reasons.
As I think about it, there are some parallels between it, Jim Crow and current attitudes on illegal immigrants across the globe so the timing of this movie’s release couldn’t have been better. When the enslaved in America were set free, you had those with power who made it their business to protect themselves and others with law, acting out the same racist intentions seen in South Africa and elsewhere. It’s sort of fascinating when thinking about how and why.
But About The Movie
It takes place with Apartheid in the background and reveals a prison break of individuals against the practice. At the start, you have these two guys who get caught for setting off explosions in public. I imagined them like some political actors today who protest and make public displays in their own right, using guerilla-like tactics to achieve their desired goals.
With these two guys however, they get caught and face a total of 20 years. The entire time I thought about Shawshank Redemption because both stories were about a cleverly-planned escape from prison. The finer details are what set these two apart though. For example, how they escaped had me on edge and if you see it you’ll know why. I kept thinking they were going to get caught, or worse.
If the story weren’t based on real events, then I wouldn’t believe it actually happened. They took some risks. They put themselves in that position of course, but they were brave enough to become criminals, imprisoned and then fugitives for what they saw as unjust laws. Just think about that. They address this conflict all throughout the movie. There’s a scene where the three guys plotting to escape wanted others — who were more than likely supporters of the cause as well — to come along with them, but none of them would take the risk. They were scared and for good reason because escaping from prison is not like choosing what’s for breakfast. For those three however, the risk of freedom over getting caught or serving their sentence was worth it.
That brings me to an important character in the story. His name was Leonard. Without him, their escape would’ve been impossible. His determination to reunite with his son was evident. He said being behind bars he only saw his son for 30 minutes out of a year! As a parent, I know that had to eat him up inside. They didn’t specify why he was in prison but he made it known he was anti-apartheid as well.
As I alluded to earlier, they’re plan to escape was nuts. I can’t imagine that happening today when prisons have cameras and other technologies. These guys were extremely lucky though. The genius of the main character couldn’t make up for the amount of pressure they were facing neither. In the end it all paid off, but not every character had a happy ending.
In the beginning, there was a black woman who was intimate with the main character. Her actions helped secure their freedom with the money she gave him. She even attended the trial. When they all escaped, they used that money to hitch a cab not far from it. Now, they don’t show what happened to the woman but they tell you she was brought in by the authorities and was never seen again after that. So it’s safe to assume she paid the ultimate risk, especially at a time that practiced all kinds of racial segregation.
I thought Escape From Pretoria was interesting though. I really like when movies based on true stories are made because it’s a great and entertaining way to highlight history. The movie only tells us the story from one perspective. It’s an anti-apartheid movie about heroes on the left against the right, so I wouldn’t imagine it being any other way. I give them credit because these guys fought for something and went to prison for it. They plotted a crazy escape plan and found glory. I’d considered that a helluva story worth telling and seeing.
More On Apartheid
In many ways, this thing about it seemed based on some behaviors we tend to do naturally. No way am I saying that enforcement of segregation laws are just, but without them it’s not like groups aren’t self-imposing the idea of “apart hood.” We self-segregate in my town (i.e. there’s a black and white side) and I’m pretty sure that’s a leftover mentality from an older period. It’s not totally segregated though. But I personally think every group should have their own (i.e. Black Wall Street) whenever possible. Who else can protect their self-interest better?
Where these ideas like Apartheid and Jim Crow are wrong however is they attempt to mandate behaviors according to race and have separate systems enforced by law, and I can’t think of any other reason for that besides fear and to protect themselves, which was motivated by racist intentions. Under those standards, it’s not bad that it came to an end and I’d say the same wherever it may still exist.