Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
He is a proud South African police sergeant, the second generation in the job, and he wants his son to follow him onto the force. In classes for new cadets, he tells them they'll be called "pig," and then he explains that the word's initials stand for Pride, Integrity, and Guts and Glory. He is good at his job and believes in it. And he is black.
His name is Micah Mangena, and Danny Glover plays him in "Bopha!" as a man who sums up much of the anguish of modern South Africa. As his story opens, in 1980, he works in a drowsy rural area where relationships between whites and blacks, and police and civilians, seem fairly good - at least from the official point of view. Mangena has a good working relationship with his white captain, who is not a bad man, and he is proud to provide a good standard of living for his wife (Alfre Woodard) and their only son (Maynard Eziashi).
Then there is trouble. The local students strike against a government decree that they be taught in Afrikaans instead of English. Both are European tongues, but Afrikaans is spoken only in South Africa, while English seems to them the language of the winds of change from outside, the language of freedom.
Mangena gets orders from his boss to raid a secret protest meeting they've heard about - a fairly innocent meeting, they're sure. "Use minimum force," the white man says. The raid goes as planned, and the area would probably have remained relatively tranquil, but a few days later new faces appear in the district: De Villiers (Malcolm McDowell), the hard-line officer from the Special Branch, and his thuggish assistant. They insist on extreme measures, eventually involving torture and death, to put down the protests. And then the black policeman's whole world comes crashing down around his ears. For his son is one of the protesters.