'The Other Man: F.W. de Klerk and the End of Apartheid': Film Review

Courtesy of Baraka Productions
A solid historical primer with just enough acknowledgement of unanswered questions

Nelson Mandela's "uncomfortable partner" tells his story

An aptly (if lengthily) titled doc about the figure in South Africa's 1990s transformation who wasn't Nelson Mandela, Nicolas Rossier's The Other Man: F.W. de Klerk and the End of Apartheid is a polished, interview-stuffed introduction to the motives and methods of the President who helped engineer his own exit from power.

While the first two-thirds may strike some viewers as overgenerous — showing the origins of Apartheid from the perspective of Dutch colonialists bent on survival after years of conflict with the British; justifying the inhuman and increasingly unworkable scheme's long life by describing worries of retribution once blacks got their freedom — Rossier is effective in giving us a sense of de Klerk's biography and personality. We get just enough context to understand how a figure viewed as a strong conservative before becoming president could, once under enough pressure from the U.S. and elsewhere, join Mandela to engineer shocking political changes.

But in recounting the years of de Klerk's rule during which shocking violence persisted, the film gives ample screen time to those who are convinced he had more to do with state brutality than he has ever admitted. Rossier strikes a delicate but credible balance between the former leader's unambiguous statements that he didn't know anything about assassinations and critics' insistence that, even if he didn't specifically give orders, he was "politically and morally responsible."

One might wish for a companion doc with more interest in investigating this question, even in a country that has placed such value on forgiveness. But Other Man reminds us how much there is to marvel at in the country's transition from minority white to black rule.

 

Production company: Baraka Productions

Director: Nicolas Rossier

Producers: Tami Woronoff, Naashon Zalk

Executive producers: Jon Alpert, Matthew O'Neill

Director of photography: Naashon Zalk

Editor: Cameron Clendaniel

Music: Sebastian Kauderer

 

No rating, 75 minutes

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