Sunday, 26 April 2020

The Obscured Nostalgia of “Verraaiers”

Verraaiers is streaming on Showmax.

Watching Verraaiers, the 2013 drama about supposed traitors to the Boer army during the Anglo-Boer War, left me with the desire to read up on the history of the war, because the experience of watching the movie feels highly inadequate and unenlightening on the historical episodes its takes as its subject. The sense of distortion and omission first arises in the voice-over prologue, when the narrator brings up the British incarceration in concentration camps of Boer women and children, as well as “their black compatriots”. No further details regarding African people are given in the entire movie, nor any qualifications of this faulty language. Knowing that this is a drama about the Afrikaans people and their history, and given the relation of that history to “their black compatriots,” there’s already the feeling of history being papered over or snipped out, and it casts doubt on the authenticity of the details that follow, including those that may seem merely incidental.

The story about Boer soldiers who decide to leave the army to stay with and protect their wives and children on their farms, and their subsequent persecution for this decision, is obviously one that interested the filmmakers, that they found historically important, and that engaged their sense of injustice. But whatever moral or emotional drive pushed this movie through to its final execution unfortunately didn’t appear to me on the screen, either as an imaginative re-creation of the past, as edifying analysis of any political situation, or as engaging and rousing rhetoric. The movie comes across more like an enactment of an encyclopedia article than as drama.