Tuesday, May 11, 2010


How do you write about Fokofpolisiekar without sounding like some kind of drooling idiot? You want everyone to see this perfect rock band that you see: the characters, the drama, the fucking insanity! But at the same time, you don’t want them to think you’re chairman of the local fan club.

When I listen to Fokofpolisiekar, I don’t hear the voice of a marginalised Afrikaans generation. I hear five fucked up, dysfunctional kids playing kick ass rock ‘n roll like their lives depend on it. It’s raw, bloody and aggressive, yet wounded, poetic and articulate at the same time. In the movie, lyricist Hunter Kennedy is quick to play down any intellectual focus on his words (or any other ‘grand notions’ circling the name Fokofpolisiekar).

"I don't think that if it gets academic attention it's smart. It (Fokofpolisiekar) achieved something culturally. So it has to be analysed," he says, going on to nonchalantly explain writing lyrics to the music guitarist Johnny de Ridder made on his computer with his diary, a bible and a dictionary. Still, reading the translations in black and white, you know he’s full of shit.

“I'm just a tourist in my motherland, a wounded animal in a cage on antibiotics.”

As a fan, it’s the content that’s most intriguing. People tend to think of Fokofpolisiekar as an overnight success. Like they had their first band practise, high-fived and BOOM, they’re the biggest band in South Africa, first class plane tickets all the way. So it’s pretty interesting to hear about the early days and see footage of them slumming it, selling weed to make ends meet and sharing underwear on the road.

The best bits are when the story tells itself – without a major theme being so thoroughly explored and examined. Like the road trip up to Benoni to record the first EP. The VW tour van that kept breaking down and was eventually abandoned somewhere “in the platteland.” The brawl in Nelspruit. The story of drummer Jaco Snakehead Venter and the time he jumped out of a speeding van mid-argument – when they found him in a bloody heap on the floor he confessed, “I’ve always wanted to try that.” Luckily for him, the doctors saved his arm.

The amount of footage committed to tape, especially in the early days, is staggering – they must have been filming non-stop. And technically, Fokofpolisiekar: The Movie is an impressive combination of archive footage, candid interviews and Liam Lynch’s show-stealing black and white photography. But as a film, Fokofpolisiekar: The Movie lacks a certain conciseness. It often felt like the film was making the same few points over and over again. Like there was a set agenda to get through before the rest of the documentary could get going.

And it’s a bit suffocating. It feels like there’s more to the story, more to the band as individuals, as characters... And as a non-Afrikaans, born-in-England, barely-passed-Afrikaans-in-high-school, half-Indian Fokofpolisiekar fan (a minority of one), I didn’t really “connect” with the film the same way I connect to their music – you know me, ever the outcast.

Still, Fokokpolisiekar: The Movie is an interesting look at Fokofpolisiekar: the band, very much through the eyes of Bryan Little and Fly On the Wall Productions. Fair enough.



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