Philip Noyce‘s Catch a Fire (Focus Features, 10.27) is a smart, urgent political drama about how an uneducated average-Joe black guy, Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), was goaded — brutalized — into becoming an anti-apartheid terrorist in the early ’80s. But the idea the film came from a white guy, albeit an atypical one — Joe Slovo , the white chief of staff of the African National Congress√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s military wing and later Nelson Mandela‘s housing minister.

It all started when Slovo, according to this 10.15 New York Times story by Kristin Hohenadel, told his daughter Shawn Slovo, a screenwriter, that she should write a script about Chamusso.
√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúTerrorism is the single biggest real fear in the contemporary world,√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ǭù Robyn Slovo, another of Joe’s daughters and one of the flm’s producers, tells Hohenadel. √ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ö‚ÄúWhat√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s interesting is there√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s not enough time spent looking at why a man would do this. Not all terrorists are the same. But this is our attempt to make an audience identify with a terrorist, there√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√¢‚Äû¬¢s no question about it.√ɬ¢√¢‚Äö¬¨√Ǭù
Chamusso “does not accept the terrorist label,” writes Hohenadel, adding that his fundamental claim is that he “was pushed to do it.”
For Noyce, Catch a Fire was “ultimately about transcendence,” she writes.
“South Africa’s recent history is a beacon to the rest of the world in terms of the peaceful resolution of bitter interracial conflict, keeping the infrastructure of the country intact, preserving the rights of citizens on all sides,” he says. “The movie really is about the South African miracle. The moral consequences of that struggle to all the participants, and then how in this society they’ve managed to move beyond that struggle. They live with it, they don’t deny it but they live together.”