Monthly Archives: December 2016

Rocks In The Attic #541: The Mothers – ‘Filmore East, June 1971’ (1971)

rita541If there’s one musical artist I think I’ll never understand, it’s Frank Zappa. It isn’t through lack of trying either. Several people have tried to turn me onto him, and it just hasn’t happened. Not yet, anyway. Interestingly, it’s always been musicians who have passed on their recommendations.

I was first handed a copy of Joe’s Garage, but it was just too ‘out there’ for me to comprehend next to my diet of ‘70s classic rock and ‘90s alternative rock. Too comedic, and I don’t think I was in on the joke. I was then handed a live DVD of him playing the Allman Brothers’ Whipping Post, I think from just before he died, and it sounded too much like a headache for me to enjoy.

I picked this record up recently for $5, and it’s instantly more accessible than anything else I’ve heard before from him. Perhaps I’m a fan of earlier Zappa and the Mothers, and I just didn’t know it…

Hit: Happy Together

Hidden Gem: Little House I Used To Live In

Rocks In The Attic #540: George Fenton & Jonas Gwangwa – ‘Cry Freedom (O.S.T.)’ (1987)

rita540Richard Attenborough’s 1987 film Cry Freedom told the tale of the white South African journalist Donald Woods. Against all odds, Woods reported on the struggles, and subsequent death, of black civil rights activist Steve Biko. It’s a compelling picture, typical of that type of late-‘80s ‘message’ film and remains just as powerful today.

Kevin Kline plays Woods, opposite Denzel Washington as Biko. After his long-standing tenure on TV’s St. Elsewhere, Cry Freedom served to be Denzel’s breakthrough into starring roles in films. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for the role, an award he would win two years later for Edward Zwick’s Glory.

I met Donald Woods once. He came to our sixth form as part of what I presume was a speaking tour of the UK. I remember a touch of awkwardness as he sat down at the front of the assembly area at a desk that was prepared for him. The teachers had decorated the desk with a pot plant that was probably a little too large for its purpose, and after sitting down, Woods looked quizzically at the plant, removed it and placed it on the floor next to him. “We’ll just move this down here,” he said, and everybody chuckled. This was the humanity of the man that Kline captured so well in Cry Freedom.

In the decades since, whenever I meet South Africans, I always tell them I’ve met Donald Woods. This should impress them, I think, but I’m always met with the same response: “Who?” To this day, I’ve never met a South African who has heard of him. Now, apart from their cartoonish depiction in Lethal Weapon 2, there can’t have been too many Hollywood films about South Africans in the late ‘80s. As a measure of how unseen – and unheard – South African voices were in that decade, Danny Glover’s Murtaugh in the Lethal Weapon sequel can’t even describe the accent of the South African men who have broken into him home. It’s just so unfamiliar and alien to him (and the rest of the American cinema-going public).

So either I’ve met a bunch of uncultured South Africans in my life, or the film was somehow glossed over and ignored in the country in which it is set. I’m not sure what the answer is.

Hit: Crossroads – A Dawn Raid

Hidden Gem: Gumboots