Independent journalist and political activist Lauren Southern focuses on the growing problem in South Africa in her first feature length documentary Farmlands released for free on her YouTube channel. She produces and hosts the film which explores the growing murders and assaults of white Afrikaner farmers.
The first part of the documentary is a brief recap on the history of South Africa, beginning with the first white settlers arriving, their contact with the African tribes living there, and the build-up to the atrocities of the apartheid government. It pivots to the election of Nelson Mandela, who brought in a new government with the aim of uniting the country. Unfortunately, after his death, his dream of a rainbow nation collapsed.
This provides a precursor to the main portion of the film, where she begins interviewing several white farmers who have been subjected to the most heinous of crimes by bands of raiders with murderous intentions. No motive is given, other than the farmers have a different skin tone.
Story after story is recounted from crime scene clean-up crews, to neighbors, to the farmers themselves who all give shocking and horrifying accounts of the types of killings that are happening.
You sit mesmerized as a woman retells the story of how her father was shot over five times before being murdered with a bullet to the back of the head. You hear about how a family’s patriarch was shot and, though he survived the attempt on his life, his farm has been turned into a virtual fortress to protect against any other attackers.
One of the most shocking aspects is the seemingly inaction by the government. In some cases, it seems to be willful ignorance, while others seem to be a cover-up of the growing scale of the crimes. Even worse, some politicians seem to encourage the brutal attacks on the white farmers.
The film shifts us from the fields to the cities where the plight of the Afrikaners seem no different. Shanty towns and squatter fields have been set-up to help with the people who are ignored by the government simply for being white.
It is a heartbreaking story and one that Southern does a good job of telling. She interviews people on both sides of the issue and while her focus is on the farmers, she does not try to hide anything from the viewer.
My main issue with the film is that, while many of the problems are examined, the solutions are barely touched on. There are a few suggestions offered, but many are dismissed as impractical or not cost effective. There are only two options that seem the most viable, according to Southern. One is to increase international pressure on the government to ease tensions within its borders.
The one that seems most problematic is to split the country between blacks and whites. While she says that many South Africans, both black and white, have suggested this, the only evidence she gives is a single town where blacks are not allowed. However, I personally disagree with this. Racial segregation should never be an option. It is antithetical to the ideals of freedom and equality. Instead, bringing reconciliation would be more beneficial to these situations. Opening up the government to the free market and giving its populace more liberty seems a better suggestion. It will not be easy, but it is a better than increasing the already bitter divide.
With this in mind, Southern does an excellent job of shining a spotlight on this issue that has, up until recently, largely been ignored by the mainstream media. It is a sobering examination on the dark realities that face a nation and hopefully will be resolved without more bloodshed.
PARENTAL CONCERNS: Foul language, Violence, Disturbing content
You can watch the trailer below:
That is my review. What did you think? Let me know in the comments below and tell me if there’s a movie you’d like me to review. Check out my thoughts on animated film Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay. Don’t forget to like, share, and subscribe for more posts like this one.