October 26, 2006
‘Catch A Fire’ ignites filmmaker’s memories of anti-apartheid dad
(Page 2 - Previous Page)"But Ruth was much more willing to acknowledge the issues we might have had about our upbringing, perhaps because she was more central and concerned in her motherly role."
Mother and daughter were forging a rapprochement when Shawn received a call telling her that First had been murdered on Aug. 17, 1982.
"I was absolutely shocked, because all those years I had been emotionally preparing myself that the call would come about Joe," the screenwriter said.
Her response was to write "A World Apart," which essentially finished the dialogue that the author and her mother did not complete in real life. The early drafts were "messy and self-pitying," she recalled, but her father helped by suggesting that she end the film with the funeral of a black activist, in order to put the family story into its proper perspective.
While she still was angry with her father, she felt she had earned his respect, "as more of an equal," when the film earned rave reviews in 1988.
The feeling was enhanced when she began working on "Catch a Fire" in 1991, two weeks after Chamusso was released from prison. Her father had arranged the meeting but was unable to attend because he was busy negotiating South Africa's transition government with Mandela.
So why hasn't the screenwriter confronted her father in a screenplay? "Men tend to get off easier in film and in life," she said.
Shawn Slovo is sad that he did not live to see the film; Joe Slovo died of bone marrow cancer at age 68 in 1995, and some 30,000 blacks turned out for his funeral. His dedication to "ordinary" people like Patrick Chamusso is reflected in how he is remembered in South Africa.
"It's not airports and stadiums that are named for him, but squatters' shacks, shantytowns and one-room schoolhouses," the screenwriter said.
Derek Luke stars as Patrick Chamusso in "Catch A Fire." Photo Â© 2006 Focus Features
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