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Leader, his Driver and the Driver's Wife, The (1991)

Courtesy of Lafayette Films

Main image of Leader, his Driver and the Driver's Wife, The (1991)
For True Stories, Channel 4, tx. 4/4/1991, 82 mins, colour
DirectorNick Broomfield
Production CompanyLafayette Films
ProducersNick Broomfield, Rita Oord
PhotographyBarry Ackroyd
EditorJohn Mister

Documentary-maker Nick Broomfield attempts to gain an interview with the South African right-wing white supremacist Eugene Terreblanche via via his driver and the driver's wife.

Show full synopsis

Nick Broomfield's comic masterpiece chronicles the death throes of the fascist AWB party in Apartheid South Africa through its leader Eugene Terreblanche, his driver JP and JP's wife, Anita. Acutely aware of the all-too-seductive nature of fascism and the media's historical complicity in that seduction, Broomfield has produced an anti-Triumph of the Will, deliberately lampooning a movement whose power rests in grave self-importance as much as violent intimidation. Instead of fearless footsoldiers, the brown-shirted AWB members look like overgrown boy scouts with their short-sleeves and moustaches. In the pre-credits sequence, we see them marching in uniform in front of their neo-Nazi flag. But there's no music and the hall is empty - a dress rehearsal, presumably, but the (accurate) impression is of a fringe group with no popular support.

Similarly, instead of Terreblanche's trademark firebrand oratory, Broomfield provokes from the AWB leader just sound and fury, signifying nothing. Deliberately arriving late for their interview, then mumbling excuses about getting tea, Broomfield reduces the leader to a most un-statesmanlike state of apoplexy, and keeps the camera rolling while Terreblanche rages at the indignity. His political masterplan doesn't even get an airing. The gig is up when Terreblanche accuses the crew of trying to sabotage Paul Kruger Day by stealing shots and obstructing proceedings, but by then it's too late. The leader's final tirade is a desperate acknowledgment that he has surrendered his public image, and with it his power, to these pseudo-fumbling filmmakers.

But, as the title suggests, this film is about followers as well as leaders. JP can be seen as a victim of blind loyalty, ideal fodder for fascist indoctrination. Befriending the crew and suffering the leader's wrath for their actions, JP is utterly defenceless to Broomfield's tactics of subversion. Describing the 'upcoming' white revolt while in his underpants, and blithering on about the Jewish conspiracy of 'Rockefellers and Oppenheimers', he's less a virulent ideologue than a genuine conspiracy nut. But while we may doubt JP's ability to realise his murderous threats, his preternaturally cheerful wife is chillingly effective. Sterilising black women in her effort to reverse their overwhelming majority, preaching race hate to the kids like a Sunday school teacher, Anita's legacy will be harder to erase in the new South Africa.

Joe Sieder

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Video Clips
Ackroyd, Barry (1954-)
Broomfield, Nick (1948-)
Channel 4 Documentary
Channel 4 at 25