“Fatherland” is a controversial documentary that explores the fine line between patriotism and racism at the Kommandokorps or KK camps, South Africa’s right-wing military summer camps.
The film tells the story of three white Afrikaans boys who decide to spend a school holiday there. They are taught that the black man is the enemy, the new South Africa is a lie and a war will be waged on the country’s white people, which they need to be prepared for.
“Fatherland” is producer and director Tarryn Lee Crossman’s first full-length documentary.
“It was a really complicated experience making this film and being in the camps with these men. A lot of people have asked me what changed in my mind about Afrikaans people after being in the camp and it was the opposite of what you would think. I think I went into the camp thinking that, ‘I’m sorry, a lot of Afrikaans people are racist,’ but I came off the camp with more empathy for a disenfranchised culture, you know. These guys, like Franz, are heartbroken that they fought for something and now they have nowhere to be,” she says.
The documentary not only tells the boys’ stories but also the stories of the men who run the camps, Afrikaans soldiers left behind after 1994, who denounce the so-called ‘Rainbow Nation’. The film looks at the connection between cultural identity and prejudice, and how a simple belief can become intensely political.
“The reason why I agreed to let the film come out – I was debating whether to release the film or not because of the conflict it was going to cause – and I decided to do it because I feel like a lot of the things that were said in the film on a less extreme level are still part of everyday life in South Africa. And unless we start owning up to that and debating and talking about it, it’s never going to go away if we stay behind close doors,” says Tarryn Lee Crossman.
“Fatherland” recently premiered in Johannesburg.