World premiere of “Catch a Fire” review

South African freedom fighter Patrick Chamusso appears awestruck as he stands in a balcony of the Elgin Theatre acknowledging cheers from the crowds who’d just seen his life story depicted powerfully in the world premiere of “Catch a Fire”.

(L.A. Times photos by Tom o’Neil)

… last night’s world premiere of “Catch a Fire” at the Eligin, Toronto’s grandest old theatre. It’s a gripping picture telling the real story of Patrick Chamusso, a South African black man who became so outraged by the horrors inflicted upon him and his family by the Apartheid regime that he made the painful decision to give up his family and join the rebel movement so he could blow up the energy plant where he worked. Actor Derek Luke nails his raw rage and shattered soul so impressively that he’s a strong candidate to get the best actor nomination that he should’ve received for Oscar-gypped “Antwone Fisher:. “Catch a Fire” could catch fire in other top Oscar categories, too, including best picture and director (Phillip Noyce, who’s also helmed “Rabbit Proof Fence” and “The quiet American”). The movie is that well made and devastating to watch, especially at the end when Noyce pulls a “Schindler’s List” and merges his screen rendition of yesterday with what’s real and survives today.

In the last few minutes of “Catch a Fire”, in an effectively handled swich, we suddenly meet the contemporary Chamusso, who addresses the audience to tell us the resolution of the last scene depicted in the story and to bring us up to date on what he’s done since (he’s turned his home into an orphanage) and what he learned from all of it.

The audience was knocked out. They whooped, cheered, wept and whistled as the credits rolled and the house lights did not come up. Then, suddenly and quite theatrically, an announcer’s voice boomed through the dark… “Ladies and gentleman, please welcome Mr. Patrick Chamusso!”
A spotlight flooded a side balcony above my head where a man stood up and looked out, thunderstruck, at a scene he surely never imagined long ago when he rotted – bruised, bloodied and starved – in an African prison. The massive crowd cheered him widely, calling out his name, some even jumping up in the air as if trying to touch him on high. Chamusso appeared emotionless at first, then smiled with amazement and gratitude as tears rolled down his face, finally extinguishing a hell fire he once dared to catch.

Everyone wept in the theatre last night. Everyone followed a brave soldier.

Catch a Fire – the Film

A political thriller: the real-life story of a South African hero’s journey to freedom. In the country’s turbulent and divided times in the 1980s, Patrick Chamusso is an oil refinery foreman and soccer coach who is apolitical – until he and his wife Precious are jailed. Patrick is stunned into action against the country’s oppressive reigning system, even as police Colonel Nic Vos further insinuates himself into the Chamussos’ lives.

Written by Focus Features

Working Title Films have completed the making of Catch a Fire, a feature based on Patrick’s life. Directed by Phillip Noyce (“Clear And Present Danger”, Rabbit Proof Fence”) and starring Derek Luke, Tim Robbins and Bonnie Henna, it is written by Shawn Slovo, who was introduced to Patrick by his father, Joe Slovo. He was Patrick’s commander in Mkhonto We Sizwe, the ANC’s armed wing. Robyn Slovo, Shawn’s sister, produced the film in collaboration with Tim Bevan,  Eric Fellner of Workinf Title Films and Anthony Minghella, the Oscar award winning director. The film is being released in the US by Focus Features from October 2006, and Universal will be distributing the film in the rest of the world from January/February 2007.

Patrick with Jo Slovo’s Daughters Shawn and Robyn Slovo

Patrick – Soundman

Patrick – Cameraman

Producers of Catch a Fire

Account holder:Patric Thibedi
Account no:1249304598
Branch code:123009
Bank's physical address:5th Floor, Heerengracht, Nedbank Building, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa