Catch a Fire
With the world at war and
the specter of terror lurking in dark corners, perhaps it is important or
vital to recall that sometimes terrorism is not because of political or
religious beliefs. Sometimes the act is a call to arms to rally a
downtrodden population to stand up for themselves or to insist on
Catch a Fire is a
true story from early-80s South Africa, just a few heartbeats before the
overthrown of apartheid. A crippling blow was landed by Patrick
Chamusso (played with passioniate restraint by Derek Luke), a factory worker
in Johannesburg's largest refinery.
Chamusso was never a
political man, in fact he was completely neutral on most matters. This
all changed when he was arrested on a bogus charge based solely on
suspicion. When Patrick refused (in fact was unable) to admit the
crime to an outwardly sympathetic secret police leader named Nic Vos (Tim
Robbins), the authorities took it out on Chamusso's wife, bringing her in
and torturing her in a nearby cell. Through this act, the police
created a renegade in Chamusso, causing him to plan an attack on the
refinery as an act of social protest.
Unlike most current cases, Chamusso took great pains to insure that
property only was destroyed – but no one would be
Of course, with the
developments around the world, the idea of torturing prisoners is a timely
and disturbing one. Catch a Fire shows that if you strip a man
of his dignity and harm him and his family, you may light a flame hotter
than you can imagine for justice. (Chamusso eventually ended up
spending years on Robbens Island, the same prison which housed Nelson
However, all things are not
black and white, and in his performance as Vos, Robbins brings some
fascinating shades to Nic Vos. In this strong performance he shows the
humanity of a man who is simply a bureaucrat trying to keep his head above
water in a world out of control. A man fighting a war because it is
his job, even though he realizes that his side is probably losing quickly.
You never believe that Vos will cause pain, however he is not about
delegating the torture.
Change is not always caused
by the important, well-known martyrs to a cause like Stephen Biko or Nelson
Mandela. Sometimes it is brought about by the little people like
Chamassu, who will tow the line as long as they can before they are driven
to act. Catch a Fire is a fascinating look at recent history
and a stirring reminder of that spirit.
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: October 3, 2006.