tue 11/12/2018

DVD: Blood and Glory | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Blood and Glory

DVD: Blood and Glory

Rare film in Afrikaans dramatises the birth of Springbok rugby in a brutal British internment camp

'Blood and Glory': the rugby scenes are better than in Clint Eastwood's in 'Invictus'

George Orwell’s maxim that sport is war minus the shooting never loses its currency. This summer it may acquire more when the football squads of the pampered west head for Russia. Historically, it applies to a small sub-genre of films about the British Empire. Lagaan, whose title unpromisingly translates as “tax”, was a stirring story of the Indian servants taking on and beaten the occupiers of their country. The South African film Blood & Glory – it too sounds better as Modder En Bloed – does a similar job with rugby. It tells of a mostly fictional game between Boer prisoners of war and their brutal British captors.

It’s set on St Helena, the remote island for which the British continued to find a use after incarcerating Napoleon. As the inventors of the concentration camp, the Brits don’t come out of this story smelling of roses. The chief villain, the officer in charge of the camp, is essentially portrayed as a proto-Nazi. The Afrikaaner prisoners, a group of a muscly farmers, are almost indistinguishable not just because of their beards and shaved heads but their idealised portrayal as innocent victims of imperial aggression.

Blood and GloryGiven the subsequent history of Afrikaaners in their own acts of suppression, it’s an interesting development for such a whitewash to emerge onto the international market. Perhaps that explains the lack of a theatrical release but it could also be that the plot is a meat-and-two-veg serving with no surprises. Inititially the prisoners don’t know rugby from a flock of sheep, but train themselves up to whup English hides by doing things the Boer way.

This is the origin story of the green-jerseyed Springboks whose ultimate apotheosis as World Cup winners would be told by Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon in Invictus. Clint not being a rugby man, the action scenes are much more stirring here. The director is Sean Else. Blood & Glory would work best as a home entertainment for testosterone-fuelled all-male gatherings, or in anti-Empire seminars on the more rapidly revisionist campuses.

@JasperRees

As the inventors of the concentration camp, the Brits don’t come out smelling of roses

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