Invictus: Hollywood Movie or Sinister Revisionist Propaganda?

A reader recently wrote to DeadBall’s more-or-less unused email address demanding answers.  And as we appear to have ground to a halt, and as we have never, to my knowledge, received inquiries from any other readers, I thought it pertinent to respond to these questions. I should also state from the outset that responding to the questions didn’t involve actually watching the film in question, which looked extremely worthy and tedious, even by sport movie standards.

Anyway, here’s the email, with our responses interspersed in italics:

Hey guys,

any chance you could do a piece on Invictus? I saw it for the first time recently, and am pretty curious / troubled by it.

Yes, there is a chance that we could do a piece on Invictus. This is it.

How true is the story actually? Did Nelson Mandela really get that involved in the rugby? Does this mean he arranged the poisoning of the All Blacks 48 hours before the final? What are the chances of Nelson Mandela pulling similar sh*t during the soccer world cup?

This is the portion of the response which is hardest to get into without having seen the film (readers who have indeed seen it should feel free to chip in with comments). As I understand it, the story is about as true as, say The Hurricane, which is to say largely true, but when the truth was inconvenient it was abandoned. I think Nelson was pretty into the rugby, seeing in it a chance to unify a riven nation, and not as a sport representing the kind of joyous funtime activity the whitefolk who imprisoned him for all those years used to wind down when they weren’t oppressing him and all other black people in South Africa. Most people would have banned rugby upon seizing power, just to spite the former oppressor, which would have been good for New Zealand rugby, in that we’d have won at least one more World Cup (possibly). But I suppose that’s why he’s Nelson Mandela and we’re just oiks on the internet.

Which I suppose suggests he didn’t arrange the All Blacks’ poisoning, being a legendarily nice man. I think the poisoning has always seemed like some kind of Boer plot, hatched by Pieter Van Zyl types. And in terms of the football World Cup, two things suggest the poisoning is unlikely to be repeated: firstly, South Africa are already watching from the sidelines/shanty towns so there’s little to be gained from going a-poisonin’; and secondly FIFA seem to control all controversial incidents very tightly, and would furious if any other organisation attempted to ambush the tight scripting of their event by getting amongst the conspiracy founding business.

Are South Africans really such nice people? I had previously though they were all evil racists. Does this mean Australians can be nice people too?

The only South African I’ve spent more than say 10 minutes with is a guy called Greg that my friend Mark knows. He seems really cool, not nice exactly, but fun to hang out with. One of Mark’s other South African friends killed a man escaping his property after burglarizing his house, then dragged the corpse back onto the property because that make sit legal apparently. Some or all of that story may not be true, but it runs counter to the ‘South Africans are nice people argument anyway’. Also my friend Debi has South African parents, and she’s nice and what I’ve heard about them seems nice. And Andrew Mehrtens has always seemed like a good dude, So maybe they aren’t all evil racists?

Australians are definitely not nice people. See: all white league players if you need proof.

How does Paul Simon fit into this whole story? I thought that he was the one mostly responsible for ending apartheid?

Good question. I think that’s one of those parts of the story deemed ‘too complicated’ for the film, and therefore left out. If it was up to me he would have been first five for the Springboks. Just so that he was in the movie at least.

Any clarification on the above points would be appreciated.

There you go. Hope that helps matters.



– Duncan Greive


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Filed under Guest Post, Movies, Rugby

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