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With Apartheid in South Africa having officially ended in 1990, a political thriller like “Catch A Fire,” which went to wide release this past weekend, could easily feel like it is outdated or, at the very least, feel like a story we have heard before. Yet this bio-pic about the true story of activist Patrick Chamusso strives to use the revolution in South Africa to provide a context for the ongoing isms around the world, specifically in Iraq. The movie also examines what is more important when it comes to changing a society: justice or forgiveness?

At the start of “Fire,” Chamusso is simply a hard-working family man who works at a refinery on the North Eastern coal fields. After a false arrest by a cruel, white police officer, Nic Voc (played by Tim Robbins), during which Chamuuso and his wife are both victims of abuse, Chamusso is no longer a neutral bystander and makes a life-altering decision to work for the outlawed African National Congress and transforms into a militant freedom fighter.

While “Fire” has some powerful moments and some great casting (Derek Luke as Chamusso is especially worthy of praise), it is at times heavy handed in the way it it tries to ideologically link to our current situation in Iraq, and most of the support characters like Vos, are flat and occssionally cartoonish.

But the biggest problem that prevents this movie from being a truly great film is the way it tacks on only a brief epilogue that shows the real Chamusso–who served 10 years on Robben Island with future South African president Nelson Mandela and now runs an orphanage–speaking to others about forgiveness. For some reason, Chamusso’s conversion to forgiveness and faith in God did not seem to merit inclusion in the telling of the rest of the story.

Which leaves me wondering if that is not the biggest commentary of all being made by this film: Perhaps we are in the cultural and poltical turmoil we are in as a nation because forgiveness is too often an afterthought.

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