So many things about the 2005 film The Interpreter really bugged me – it was too typically Hollywood in its soundtrack and pan shots, the way it lionised Sean Penn (then in the limelight for all the accolades he was winning for Mystic River) the character actor, rather than letting him act out his role, and perhaps most of all, the fact that the camera just couldn’t seem to get over the fact that Nicole Kidman looked drop-dead beautiful. And I’d better not get started about how the film almost exclusively presents the white farmers’ case in Zimbabwe (in the film, the African portions unfold in a fictional country called Matobo). All of which meant that, out of sheer irritation at a great opportunity lost, I had more or less forgotten some pretty neat stuff.
“The gunfire around us makes it hard to hear. But the human voice is different from other sounds. It can be heard over noises that bury everything else. Even when it’s not shouting. Even when it’s just a whisper. Even the lowest whisper can be heard – over armies… when it’s telling the truth.” — the foreword of the autobiography that the fictional president and liberation leader of Matobo is supposed to have written.
“Everyone who loses somebody wants revenge on someone, on God if they can’t find anyone else. But in Africa, in Matobo, the Ku believe that the only way to end grief is to save a life. If someone is murdered, a year of mourning ends with a ritual that we call the Drowning Man Trial. There’s an all-night party beside a river. At dawn, the killer is put in a boat. He’s taken out on the water and he’s dropped. He’s bound so that he can’t swim. The family of the dead then has to make a choice. They can let him drown or they can swim out and save him. The Ku believe that if the family lets the killer drown, they’ll have justice but spend the rest of their lives in mourning. But if they save him, if they admit that life isn’t always just… that very act can take away their sorrow.”
How can we carry word to the ignorant armies within?