The Bang-Bang Club

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  • Topic: Bang-Bang Club, Kevin Carter, South African photojournalists
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  • Published : January 7, 2013
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Lenette Vlasman, 1817558 - 1

Lenette Vlasman, 1817558 Literatures in English Fiction and Film Dr. Roel van den Oever

The Bang-Bang Club

The Bang-Bang Club is the autobiography of South-African photographers Greg

Marinovich and Joao Silva, two of the most prestigious photographers in the field of conflict photography. Next to being the autobiography of Greg and Joao, it is also the biography of their fellow photographers Ken Oosterbroek and Kevin Carter, both of whom died at a young age. Together, Greg Marinovich, Joao Silva, Ken Oosterbroek and Kevin Carter formed the so-called Bang-Bang Club; a group of photographers who covered the political and tribal conflict that brought South-Africa to the edge of civil war in the 1990’s. In the prologue, writers Greg Marinovich and Joao Silva say that it was never their intention to write a book about their endeavors. And when they finally did, “it was more a journey of discovery than a fevered attempt to chronicle what we considered an already established truth.” (Marinovich and Silvo, xiii) Interestingly, they also immediately dismiss their own title. About the name ‘Bang-Bang Club’ they say; “there never was such a creature, there never was a club.” (Marinovich and Silvo, xiv). Indeed, the name did not come from the photographers themselves, but from an article published in the South-African magazine Living. Originally named “Bang-Bang Paparazzi”, the editor of Living changed the title of a second article on the photographers after the ‘members’ of the club let know that they felt insulted by the name. “The kind of journalism, the photography we do — it’s real lives; you know, people living, people dying”, said Joao Silva (quoted by Sandra C. Roa) Even though Greg, Joao, Kevin and Ken disliked the brand, at least two of them must have warmed to it; both novel and film carry the name “The Bang-Bang Club”.

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Lenette Vlasman, 1817558 - 2

As a book, The Bang-Bang Club follows the young photographer Greg Marinovich during

the highlight of his career in the 1990’s. Since the novel opens with a foreword written by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu and a preface by writers Marinovich and Silva, both of which state that the events in the novel were factual, the text immediately gets a different genre; had it not opened with a foreword and preface, it might be conceived as an adventure story perhaps partly true, but the actions of the main characters are almost to unbelievable to be realistic. However, the foreword and preface are there, which makes the reader acutely aware of the genuineness of the story, and the impact the photos from the Bang-Bang Club must have had. The film has a preface as well, but it does not have a known author. Even before the title of the film, a typed text is shown;

“Between 1990 and 1994, the ruling apartheid government waged a secret war against Nelson Mandela’s ANC party and its supporters. In this covert war, the government found a powerful ally - the Inkatha movement and its thousands of Zulu warriors.”

After a short scene, the text “based on a true story” fades in and out. These short texts give the viewer context, but not yet any insight about the characters and their lives - which the novel does, by first stating the importance of the events in the foreword, and then introducing the writers as the main characters.

Following the example above, I will discuss in detail three facets of both film and novel

that create the impression that the film is less truthful and realistic than the book. Discussing the first, I will continue on the example given above and focus on the narrative style of both book and film. The second facet shall consist of a short discussion about the absence of background information in the film. The third facet involves a visual aspect; the novel The Bang-Bang Club was published with a large amount of photos from Greg, Joao, Ken and Kevin and in the film, these photos...
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