Monthly Archives: August 2015

“The View From Baskins’ Ridge” by Etienne— “Bobby and Clyde Redux”

the view from baskins ridge

Etienne. “The View From Baskins’ Ridge”, Smashwords, 2015.

“Bobby and Clyde Redux”

Amos Lassen

For the first sixteen years of their lives, Bobby and Clyde were inseparable. After having been away for several years both Bobby and Carlyle (as Clyde now called himself) have returned to Blue Ridge to join the family law firm of Baskins and Baskins, but they do not know that there are surprises in store for them.

In the earlier Bobby and Clyde story, Bobby’s family let Clyde assume the identity of a cousin who had been missing and presumed dead years ago in Africa, along with his missionary parents. We can only imagine what happens when he turns up in Asheville alive.

When the book begins, Carlyle, is about to take his board exams and Bobby is ready to leave the urban lifestyle even if he has not reached the point in his career that he had hoped to. Their daily lives become routine in Asheville and the biggest excitement is building their new house. Then a worker finds two skeletons in what had been a moonshine shack. This should have been take care of immediately but the sheriff is a homophobe and the real Carlyle has returned. Bobby and Carlyle now are worried about their futures.

Because of the era, Bobby and Carlyle live like close cousins who decided to live and work together. They are supported by family and friends and they know that they are pretty lucky. They do not show public affection and they are certainly aware of the hostilities they would face if they were open about their lifestyle. They do express their feelings privately but this is not a romantic novel. We read about how they set up their life together and how they are able to escape criticism that was leveled at gay men at that time. The most romantic aspect of the novel is knowing that they love each other. What else happens is what you will have to find out when you read the novel because I am not going to spoil the read by recounting the plot.

“3-Pack Jack Performance Art Book Set” from Steven Reigns

jack pack

Reigns, Steven. “3-Pack Jack Performance Art Book Set”

Amos Lassen

When I met Steven Reigns several years ago at the Saints and Sinners Literary Festival, I met him as a poet and I loved his writing. He did not tell me there were other aspects to his life that I have since learned and he is a true Renaissance man or better said, a gay Renaissance man. He recently gave a life show of performance art and for those of us who missed it, he has not published a three book set about what went on in the show. He brought a diverse collection of gay men in front of a live audience in Los Angeles to discuss those taboo subjects that we say that we “never speak about openly”. Shame was not an issue here as this no holes barred activity took place and all that is to be hidden is suddenly out there in the open (and this is true of the three book collection as well). What we read (and what audiences saw) is brave, witty and sexy. Today now that as gay men have achieved a degree of acceptance, we seem to be assimilating and looking to lead “normal” (whatever that means) lives yet what is in these boys does just the opposite with erotica that emphasizes sub cultural differences. We see new gay men here who believe that the core of gay liberation is based upon radical sexual politics even today as it once was. For them, performance and literature are the primary practice of their culture.

The three books are in full color and bound with a fold-out poster of a vintage jockstrap advertisement.

The books will titillate you and provide the experience you would have had had you been there for the show that was hosted by Reigns. Included are performance photographs by Matt Baume and the monologues, scripts, and transcriptions from each event. As a “boneus”, you get a picture of Reigns’ penis.

If you are interested in these, send me a note via this site and we will get it handled.

“SOCIETE” by Alexander Helas— The Struggle for Free Will

societe

Helas, Alexander. “Société”, Voice Collective Press. 2015.

The Struggle for Free Will

Amos Lassen

Christian Matters is twenty-nine years old and lives in Chicago and he is neurotic. He lives his life routinely and would in all probability continue to do so if he had not been victim of a strange event that threw him off his regular practice. In fact, as a result of this he quit his job and leaves his career, breaks up with his girlfriend and leaves his home to go on a journey to San Francisco; a journey that will change him forever.

Arriving in San Francisco, he meets Lester Rothschild, an aristocrat and his lover, Ella Atkins. Lester, who is mysterious and some feel that there is something missing in him, takes Christian with him to open Société, a place that promises to be “the most luxurious entertainment complex at the heart of the world’s richest city”. Again, by chance, Christian receives a strange visitor and becomes aware of a sudden death and these lead him to believe there is something going on behind the highly awaited opening of Société. He discovers that indeed there is something else at stake here. fate of something much greater is at stake. Alexander Helas gives us a provocative vision on “the struggle of free will at the hands of society’s quest for progress”.

What I see here reminds me once again that waiting for tomorrow does not solve the problems of today and this is intelligently shown to us here. I have always felt that the sign of an important novel is one that makes you think and that is certainly what we have here. There is nothing formulaic here and I am will go so far as to say that this is a new kind of novel; one that is not content for you to walk away from once you have finished the read. It is not like anything you have read before and the real beauty here is that you just might find yourself in it. The characters are very real and very much like people we see everyday (but exaggerated a tad). Who we are today does not mean that is who we will be tomorrow and just as we change so does the world around us. Some of you will be surprised that this is a first novel while others will find the story and the author’s language craft to be compelling. This is a novel about the human condition and how it affects us every day.

“Shared Stories, Rival Tellings: Early Encounters of Jews, Christians, and Muslims” by Robert C. Gregg— Distinctions

shared stories

Gregg, Robert C. “Shared Stories, Rival Tellings: Early Encounters of Jews, Christians, and Muslims”, Oxford University Press, 2015.

Distinctions

Amos Lassen

As I opened the package that contained this book I read the cover and wondered why no one had thought of this before. What a brilliant idea to take stories that are basically common to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, religions that are considered kindred and that have ancestral heritages and monotheistic belief in common and show how the same basic story is told in each. Writer Gregg explores the early exchanges of Jews, Christians, and Muslims and tells us that their interactions “were dominated by debates over the meanings of certain stories sacred to all three communities”.

Here we see how Jewish, Christian, and Muslim interpreters (artists as well as authors) developed their own unique and particular understandings of narratives present in the two Bibles (the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible) and the Qur’an. Gregg focuses on five stories: “Cain and Abel”, “Sarah and Hagar”, “Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife”, “Jonah and the Whale”, and “Mary the Mother of Jesus”. We are then guided through the various and intentional variations of the five stories as Gregg shares the

major issues under contention and the social-intellectual through the various spirited, and sometimes combative, exchanges among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We get understanding and insight into the stories and the historical periods that affected their writing and their telling. What I really like here is that we are also privy to the artwork about as well as the writing of the stories and the moments in history that held implications for the three religions. We therefore look at the dynamics of “competition” between the religions and the current social and religious context in which they are understood.

The book provides us with extensive guides to many texts but does son in accessible ways. We get in-depth historical contexts to the differences and divides between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

The three religions each have sacred stories and some of them overlap while others compete. Gregg looks at the stories from the Abrahamic sagas with seriousness and honesty and we get the benefit of his research.

We are all aware of the conflicts between religions today and this is what really makes this study so special. This is an honest and open study and it is wonderful that we can bring together differing perspectives. This is a fascinating and provocative read and we walk away from the book feeling that we have really learned something here. Below is the

table of contents:

 

Prologue

 

Part I: Cain and Abel/Qabil and Habil

Preview: Chapters 1-3 The first murder

Chapter 1: Cain’s fratricide: rabbis and other early Jewish writers judge the case

Chapter 2: Cain and Abel in Early Christian Writings and Art

Chapter 3: Muslims on “…the story of the two sons of Adam”

Comparative Summary: Cain and Abel/Qabil and Habil

 

Part II: Sarah and Hagar: Mothers to Three Families

Preview: Chapters 4-6 Abraham’s rival wives

Chapter 4: Sarah and Hagar: Jewish portrayals

Chapter 5: Sarah and Hagar in Christian interpretations

Chapter 6: Hagar and Ishmael, Ibrahim’s family in Mecca

Comparative Summary: Sarah and Hagar: Mothers to three families

 

Part III: Joseph’s Temptation by his Egyptian Master’s Wife

Preview: Chapters 7-9 Joseph/Yusuf and the Temptress

Chapter 7: Joseph and Potiphar’s wife–Jewish interpretations

Chapter 8: Joseph put to the test–Christian sermons and art

Chapter 9: Yusuf with Zulaykha

Comparative Summary: Joseph’s temptation by his Egyptian master’s wife

 

Part IV: Jonah the Angry Prophet

Preview: Chapters 10-12 “The one of the fish”

Chapter 10: Jonah, Nineveh, the Great Fish, and God: Jews ponder the story

Chapter 11: Jonah and Jesus: In One Story, Two.

Chapter 12: Islam’s Yunus: from anger to praise

Comparative Summary: Jonah the angry prophet

 

Part V: Mary, Miriam, Maryam

Preview: Chapters 13-15 Mary through three religions’ eyes

Chapter 13: Mary’s Story in Christian imagination: from Jewish maiden to ever-Virgin to Heavenly Advocate

Chapter 14: Miriam, mother of Yeshu the false messiah: Jewish counter-stories

Chapter 15: Islam’s Maryam: “chosen…above the women of the worlds”

Comparative Summary: Mary, Miriam, Maryam

 

Epilogue

Endnotes

Works Cited/Bibliography

Index

 

“After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion” by Anthony W. Petro— The Religious History of AIDS in America

after the wrath of god

Petro, Anthony W. “After the Wrath of God: AIDS, Sexuality, and American Religion”, Oxford University Press, 2015.

The Religious History of AIDS in America

Amos Lassen

“After the Wrath of God” is writer Anthony Petro’s religious history of AIDS in America. In order to do so he looks at the aspects of culture that brought about the battles over sex, morality, and the future of the American nation and then demonstrates how religious leaders and AIDS activists were able to form and shape debates over sexual morality and public health from the 1980s up to the present. What we have basically seen up until now is that the emphasis on religion and AIDS has been with the Religious Right and here is where we break new ground with Petro taking a broader view by bringing in Protestant, evangelical, and Catholic groups together with AIDS activist organizations that brought about public discussions of AIDS prevention and care in the U.S. He carefully analyzes how the AIDS crisis was responsible for prompting American Christians in all denominations and political persuasions to speak publicly about sexuality and especially homosexuality and then to unleash a moral discourse on sex that dealt with personal concerns and worries and anxieties about the health of the nation. He shows how the epidemic increased efforts to push forward a moral agenda in reference to the health benefits of abstinence and monogamy and how this legacy eventually brought about the concept of gay marriage.

His book begins in 1987 when a group of protesters stood outside of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Amherst, Massachusetts protesting the minister inside, who was giving out condoms to his congregation as he gave his sermon a sermon about AIDS. In his talk, the minister dramatized the “need for the church to confront the seemingly ever-expanding crisis”. His words and actions brought about a standing ovation from those listening but he had to leave quickly because he had received death threats before his sermon. This gives us an idea of how it was in this country in the 1980s. Petro brings us the first book to bring religion and AIDS together.

“After the Wrath of God” is a very important book that shows how and why this moralizing manages to find its way into health policies and how judgments about sexual behavior has become a major issue in this country for some. We see here that religious responses to AIDS that extend far beyond the Christian Right. We see the roles of ecumenical Protestants, Roman Catholics, biomedical officials, and ACT UP protestors existed right next to their evangelical compatriots and we get a good hard look at American religion, sexuality, and moral debate that took place during the epidemic.

It is important to understand that we have not yet survived AIDS; the battle is still raging and this is due to the religious fervor that came was exaggerated during the heyday of the epidemic in this country. Even today, when we speak about AIDS we do not just speak about a disease but also about “a sociology of suffering and a plan for spiritual warfare”. “After the Wrath of God” goes beyond the narratives about diversity of response to the epidemic by religions.

Petro does not deny the negative impact that the Church has had and it is impossible to avoid that. He shows that AIDS gave some factions in the Christian movement to bring into being a new movement with the goal of reforming the freedom of sexuality that had been part of America in the 60s and 70s.

The Sexual Revolution and Vatican II changed views on sexuality and for some religions this meant sexual license. Petro focuses on the relationship between the Church and AIDS for all Americans. He tells is that it was the epidemic that gave “divine evidence for God’s sexual morality” and we still live with that new code of morality today. Christian or not, and for better or for worse, we live with that morality today. We see that there is now great “mutuality and interconnection between the Church and the ongoing response to AIDS for a simple division to be possible. The spirit and the virus are enmeshed. The Church shaped the response to AIDS, and AIDS shapes the Church”.

“ALLELUIA”— A Deadly Odyssey

alleluia

“Alléluia”

A Deadly Odyssey

Amos Lassen

Michael is a womanizer and a murderer. He just happens to meet Gloria via computer and after a night together she agrees to join him in his murderous activities and the two begin a journey of wild sex, envy and the dark arts. A lonely mortuary assistant and a disturbed conman run rampant through the verdant Ardennes region of Belgium and we see them as two increasingly deranged and supposedly tortured protagonists.

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Gloria (Lola Dueñas) is a single mother living in a walk-up apartment. Michel (Laurent Lucas) says he is an entrepreneur in footwear and even before their first date Michel ritualistically burns a photo of Gloria. After a night of steamy sex in a hallway, Michel gets a cash loan from Gloria and disappears. She tracks him down in a strip club and swears her allegiance to him and promising to help him in further schemes in which he goes after rich, unsuspecting women. Gloria abandons her daughter and the two hit the road.

When Michel marries a widow named Marguerite (Edith le Merdy), Gloria, posing as his sister, takes a room with the newlyweds. The newlyweds have quite a sexual coupling and we see Michel as a willfully objectified middle manager in the face of Gloria’s fatally delirious, histrionic jealousy.

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What do Michel and Gloria really want, and why do they enter this cycle of seduction and mutilation in order to get it? They go after a widow, an aging patron of a church, and a single mother into their trap, but we do not see any social, political, or material reasons that even suggest a method, or even a purpose, to their madness. For camp to really work, it needs a target and there is none here.

I found myself somewhat haunted by the brutal and shocking acts of physical violence and Michel. Gloria is also a murderer and her murders are crimes of passion. She knows right from wrong, but she understands them in her own selfish way. For her, it seems, that right is any action that allows her to continue her love affair with a specific man and this simply means that anything that could hinder that love is wrong. We come close to feeling sorry for her and her affection for Michel and she in fact gives up everything for him including her family and friends, her home, her legal and moral innocence, and everything that was part of her life before she met him. All she has to show are dead bodies, a future that almost guarantees more dead bodies, and a man who doesn’t appreciate everything that she has done to prove that she loves him. more than anything else in the world.

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Michel never asked for any of this. He’s a roué. Gloria was to be a one-night stand; one of his marks, and she’s ideal for his purposes. She’s a divorcée and a single mother who hasn’t had the time or desire to seek out romance since her husband left her and she works at a hospital morgue and has no social life.

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After their first date, Michel seems domesticated with Gloria, but then he says he needs some money to keep his shoe store afloat. She gives him some cash, and he disappears. They only meet again because Gloria searches for him at every nearby club until she finds him at one, flirting with other women. Michel has debilitating headaches from an old head injury and has a history of being sexual abused as a child. Gloria decides she can overlook his ways as long as they can be together. But of course she cannot and that is why there are so many dead bodies in their wake.

The film suggest that Michel has a need to seduce women for the benefit of his comparative sanity. We see a pattern—Michel and Gloria trick a woman into believing they’re siblings, Michel engages with the woman sexually, and Gloria, having discovered Michel’s betrayal kills the woman. The murders are intimately appalling and their impact stays with us throughout (and even after) the film .

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We learn only we need to know and nothing more. There are still mysteries to consider by the end. Why does Michel keep Gloria around— does he loves her or is he trapped in fear of what might happen if he leaves her? The answer appears to be that we’ll never know one way or the other. Maybe that’s for the best. I found myself on the edge of my seat even though the film upset me and I believe that is exactly what the film was meant to do.

“THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW”— Re-evaluating “Rocky”

the rocky horror

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”

Re-evaluating “Rocky”

Amos Lassen

What can be said about “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” that has not been said over and over? I sit here thinking about it and find myself in quite a dilemma. On the one hand, it’s a great musical with great costumes. It has catchy songs but…. as a movie it is good because its songs and production numbers are good. There isn’t much more than that and I am sure that many will disagree with me. Let’s face it—the movie is forty years old and I am just not sure why there is all this hoopla. The film has somewhat poor direction and it is not put together well even with some of it s good performances. Tim Curry is fine as a mad scientist named Dr. Frank N. Furter, who is not a hundred miles removed from Dr. Frankenstein. He is a transvestite who gets his kicks from breaking up relationships by sleeping with both the boy and the girl. He claims to have found the secret to life, and he shows this off by bringing a well-chiseled man (Peter Hinwood) in a golden pair of briefs to life, who immediately slips into a song-and-dance number.

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The boy and the girl are Brad (Barry Bostwick) and Janet (Susan Sarandon), newly engaged and in need of some car assistance. They arrive at Dr. Frank’s castle to use the phone, but when they are greeted by the hunched-back servant Riff Raff (Richard O’Brien), their flat tire becomes the least of their worries.

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Sarandon and Bostwick do like anyone in their roles can do without looking too ridiculous. Curry, however, seems to be having a lot of fun because his character is a lot of fun. He is oddly appealing and he brings in the androgynous theme of the film.

One of the big buzzwords today is ‘interactive’ and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” was interactive before most of us knew what it meant. Audiences actively talk back to the screen shouting lines and using props that have become as standard as the real dialogue. In fact there are even accepted variations adopted in specific locations.

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I am not sure to which genre the movie fits—it’s part Sci-Fi, part satire and part musical. In fact, the music used in this film has endured as on its own. I believe that the main reason this film has not only endured all these many years is it burst on the scene just as the midnight movie movement started to take hold. A symbiotic relationship was formed between the audiences, owners and filmmakers of “The Rocky Picture Horror Show”. It is still running in theaters four decades after its initial release. It has been selected for the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

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On this new edition, video and audio has been given a re-mastering worthy of the unique place this film holds in the annals of cinematic history. First and foremost the look of this movie is even more vibrant than ever. The colorful costumes and sets are loud and take us back to when we first saw the movie.

The video is so detailed it is now capable of seeing the lines of mascara and gloss of the lipstick as if the characters are there in your living room with you. The audio is exceptional. For this edition the sound stage is presented in wonderfully rich: DTS-HD MA 7.1that will literally pull you into the movie.

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While nothing can replace going to a midnight showing of this movie at a theater this DVD is as close as many will ever get.”The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is not so much a movie as more of a long-running social phenomenon. When the film was first released in 1975 it was ignored by pretty much everyone. “Rocky Horror” opened, closed, and would have been forgotten had it not been for the inspiration of a low-level 20th Century-Fox executive who talked his superiors into testing it as a midnight cult movie. The rest is history but watching it on video is seeing it just as a movie without the midnight sideshow and we see that it is cheerful and silly, and kind of sweet, and forgettable.

“LITTLE GLORY”— Two Orphans

little gloryposter french

“LITTLE GLORY”

Two Orphans

Amos Lassen

“Little Glory” is “an emotionally gripping coming-of-age drama” two young orphans, surviving in a time of economic hardship and against the odds. Fate has torn apart their lives but the bond of love holds them together. Shawn (Cameron Bright), a nineteen-year-old high school decides to step up and raise his little sister, Julie (Isabella Blake-Thomas) on his own after the death of his father. Shawn had hoped to gain money from his father’s insurance policy but instead was forced to fight with his aunt Monica (Astrid Whettnal) for custody of Julie. What he did not know was that providing for a nine-year-old proved to be harder than he could have thought. He not only had to provide for Julie but also deal with all of those who were against the idea of his raising her. As he struggles to keep the two of them together, Shawn discovers the importance of being a big brother when his little sister is all he has.

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The film is directed by Belgian Vincent Lannoo and this is his first English language film. It all begins when Shawn’s abusive alcoholic Bill (Bruce Geduldig) drops dead. Shawn was still grieving for his mother but the guy does not have a sense of responsibility and he and his friend Matt have done some pretty terrible things. Here he is at just 19 and willing to take on the role of parent when he has been having a hard time facing adulthood himself. The judge gives him a month probationary period with Julie before he makes an ultimate decision.

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At first Shawn was not interested in what would happen to them until his aunt claimed custody of Julie and this forced him to try to prove himself fit to raise his little sister. This is quite an intense story of self-discovery as Shawn and Julie try to be a family.

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Shawn had been incensed with his father when he was alive and in order to deal with Julie, he had to pretend that the rage he felt was never there. He will not admit that he is afraid but we see his fear when he understands that he now has neither parent. His aunt has the means to care for Julie but Shawn feels that she needs to have a sense of family. Julie stands in light contrast to the darkness of Shawn and as the new two come together we share in their happiness. There is more I want to say but I do not want to spoil the viewing experience for anyone so I will stop and recommend that you find a way to see this beautiful film.

“The Boys from Eighth and Carpenter” by Tom Mendicino— Working Class Life

the boys from eight and carpenter

Mendicino, Tom. “The Boys from Eighth and Carpenter”, Kensington, 2015.

Working Class Life

Amos Lassen

On Eight and Carpenter in South Philadelphia, we meet two loving brothers, Frankie and Michael Gagliano. Their father, Luigi, an Italian immigrant has had a barber shop there for decades and the brothers have helped him out for what seems like forever. When their mother was dying, Frankie who was eight-years-old then swore that the two brothers would always be there for each other and he has always tried to do so despite his father’s violence and the various wives that Luigi brought home. With his father’s death, Frankie takes the barbershop and makes it over so that it fits into the new gentrification of the neighborhood. Michael went on to college and law school and became a successful prosecutor with a political career in front of him and the brothers remain close even with the differences between them. But then something happens that forces Michael between choosing the life he has and the promise that the brothers share. He knows the power of a promise. One can already feel the tension that is beginning here.

One night, after helping his older brother Frankie out of a bit of a bind, Michael Gagliano makes a shocking discovery one night after helping his brother and what he learned could change both of their lives forever. It is just at this point the book changes gears and author Tom Mendicino takes us back to when Luigi left Italy and came to America with his mother. His father who he hardly knew had come over first to prepare the way for the rest of his family. Luigi eventually took over his father’s barbershop as he waited for his wife to make him a father and she did so with two sons. However, his wife died young and Luigi was given to violent outbursts that Frankie was able to protect Michael from. Then there Luigi’s wives who did always exhibit motherly behavior to Frankie and Michael.

Michael was quite aware, as they grew up together, that Frankie was different and that he needed to be watched and protected. Even with Michael’s care and worries about Frankie’s lifestyle, the two brothers are close and they continue to take care of each other regardless of what happens.

Mendicino has created two fascinating characters in Frankie and Michael and he gives us a wonderful look at working-class Italian-American life as well as a story of brotherly love, obligation, respect and the unpredictability of the future. Rising above these sub-themes is familial love. We become vey aware of the importance of honesty and compassion. The book tells a wonderful short that is not likely t be forgotten one the covers are closed.

 

 

“THE OTHER MAN: F.W. DE KLERK AND THE END OF APARTHEID”— Ending the Apartheid

the other man

“THE OTHER MAN: F.W. DE KLERK AND THE END OF APARTHEID”

Ending the Apartheid

Amos Lassen

Most of us living here in America are not aware of the name F.W. de Klerk. He is the “other man” in Nicholas Rossier’s “The Other Man: F.W. de Klerk and the End of Apartheid.” Perhaps you might remember that name if I mention that de Klerk won the Nobel Peace Prize together with Nelson Mandela for their work transforming South Africa into a democracy. De Klerk was born in 1936. He became the president of South Africa in 1989 and served until May 1994. That made him the seventh and last head of state under apartheid. The two men won the prize in 1993 after de Klerk had already won the Félix Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize in 1991 from UNESCO with Nelson Mandela “for their contribution to international peace, to encourage them to continue in their effort and as a tribute to what they have done to educate their people toward overcoming of prejudice that many would not have thought possible a few years ago.” That prize has just been established in 1990 and de Klerk and Mandela were the first recipients.

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De Klerk was president of the Senate from 1969-1976 and had served in other governmental offices before that including Senator; Minister of Work and Public Works; Work and Mines; Home Affairs, Work and Immigration; Home Affairs, Education and Arts and Sciences; Education, Arts and Sciences and Information and National Education. De Klerk was Mandela’s vice president.

This new documentary includes archival and historic footage along with interviews with the now 78-year-old de Klerk, Mandela’s successor Thabo Mbeki and South African Supreme Court Justice Richard Goldstone.

In February 1990, President F.W. de Klerk lifted the ban on the African National Congress and ordered the release of Nelson Mandela. As the world celebrated, Mandela would go on to become South Africa’s first democratically elected president – with de Klerk as his deputy President.

De Klerk’s history is complicated. He was a defender of white Africans and their privileges, he helped lead the fight against ANC activists. Here we see what pushed this man to reverse his beliefs and jumpstart the process of making South Africa a more equal and just nation?

The film looks at de Klerk’s historically marginalized role in ending apartheid. In 1990, de Klerk assisted in both the lifting of the ban on the African National Congress and the release of Nelson Mandela, but director Nicolas Rossier isn’t interested in examining these events with an eye toward understanding why de Klerk’s role has been downplayed in historical accounts; rather, through interviews with de Klerk as well as numerous other political figures of the period, and a fluid but self-reflexively lethargic archival montage framework, Rossier positions his film as merely a tribute to de Klerk’s efforts as leader and progressive political daredevil.

South African Deputy President F.W. de Klerk, right, and South African President Nelson Mandela pose with their Nobel Peace Prize Gold Medal and Diploma, in Oslo, December 10, 1993. De Klerk announced at a press conference in Cape Town, Tuesday Aug. 26, 1997, that he was resigning as head of South Africa's National Party, and would quit politics.(AP Photo/NTB)

South African Deputy President F.W. de Klerk, right, and South African President Nelson Mandela pose with their Nobel Peace Prize Gold Medal and Diploma, in Oslo, December 10, 1993. De Klerk announced at a press conference in Cape Town, Tuesday Aug. 26, 1997, that he was resigning as head of South Africa’s National Party, and would quit politics.(AP Photo/NTB)

The film is never clear on exactly why de Klerk’s rescuing is necessary unless it is just trying to vilify Mandela or, at least, suggest he was ungrateful for de Klerk’s role in having him freed. The film is to be seen as an attack on Mandela and on a historical account that prizes his emergence as the figurehead for anti-apartheid actions. Here is convincing evidence to assert de Klerk’s deserved place alongside Mandela only if we pay no attention to the material here that has been edited, composed, and made sentimental by an ad campaign with the purpose of disguising manipulation.

DVD Extras include: “20 years after Apartheid” (Discussion with Thabo Mbeki, Max Dupree & F.W. de Klerk) •The Quantum Leap Speech” (About de Klerk’s famous speech, February 2, 1990) • “Vox Populi” (Street interviews about the legacy of Mandela and de Klerk).