SIFF 2016: Action Comandante **1/2

By Dennis Hartley

(Originally posted on Digby’s Hullabaloo on May 21, 2016)

Nadine Angel Cloete’s documentary is a profile of anti-apartheid activist Ashley Kriel, who was gunned down by police in 1987 (at age 20) and name-checked by Nelson Mandela in his 1990 post-prison release speech. While obviously meant to be an inspirational piece, the film falls curiously flat; a crucial portion of the tragically short-lived Kriel’s life story seems to be MIA. His formative years are covered; his awakening as a community activist (at an unusually young age), and the shady circumstances surrounding his death are examined…but what happened in between? All we learn is that he left his hometown for several years, and returned a seasoned freedom fighter. Within a short period, he was dead. The end. Exposition regarding that transformation from activist to guerilla is much too sketchy. Kriel’s story is undoubtedly an important part of South Africa’s freedom struggle, but as told here, it feels incomplete.

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