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School CP - January 2001

Corpun file 6761

ZA NOW, 18 January 2001

Bad old school days relived in US film

By Ilda Jacobs in Washington DC

SOUTH Africa's old school days, where children were forced to walk silently in single file and were sharply caned into submission, are horribly familiar in a 17-minute film produced in the United States by former Capetonian Greg Watt.

Watt, an independent filmmaker, doesn't identify South Africa in the film, "Line of Fire", but clearly draws on his experiences to reflect the authoritarian, militaristic face of school education.

"It is a South African history I cannot escape," he said at the recent screening of the film at the Goethe Institute in Washington DC.

The film was shot in Northern Virginia with amateur American actors, including 14-year-old lead actor Joey Pinkston who plays 13-year-old Dean Bottomley.

Bottomley defies the authority of the school and a dictatorial teacher whose wrath he faces daily.

"It is a small guy against a big institution, and it seems insurmountable, but it is a liberating experience to do something small directed against the authority," explains Watt, who attended Laerskool De Kuilen in Kuilsrivier and a Catholic boarding school in Sea Point.

The self-funded black and white film coldly depicts the rigid discipline of school, the fear of authority instilled in children, and their humiliation and punishment.

Filming the caning scenes was "very tense" says Watt. Says Pinkston: "I would not be able to live like that."

Watt's previous film, "Without Remorse" follows the same themes of domination and repression, especially regarding South African racial issues, and has won first place at the annual Rosebud Film Festival. The festival showcases the best independent films from United States East Coast filmmakers.

Watt graduated in Film, Video and Animation from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1998. He will return to South Africa next year to do some commercial work in the local film industry and to research a feature film he has planned. - African Eye News Service

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