November/December 2015  (Volume 30, Issue 6)

The Other Man: F.W. de Klerk and the End of Apartheid

First Run, 75 min., not rated, DVD: $24.95, Sept. 22

Reviewer rating: 3.5/4

Nicolas Rossier’s fine documentary fills in gaps about the end of apartheid in South Africa, especially for viewers who exclusively associate Nelson Mandela with the nation’s enormous political and social change. Combining fresh interviews with former South African president F.W. de Klerk and many other government officials, journalists, and surviving leaders of the African National Congress, The Other Man focuses on the wrenching consequences of de Klerk’s policies to end the ban on black South African political parties, set free political prisoners, and enter the white-controlled government into negotiations with the ANC. The process, which began in 1990, took several years to complete and was repeatedly interrupted by violence and assassinations intended to thwart an agreement. Mandela—who was freed from prison by de Klerk and assumed leadership of the ANC—shared a Nobel Peace Prize with de Klerk, an international acknowledgment that de Klerk helped move things along. The film also deals with the bitterness and suspicion surrounding de Klerk and what he did or did not know about counterinsurgency forces routinely assassinating ANC figures and organizing acts of butchery on entire black neighborhoods. De Klerk denies it all, while the current generation of so-called “born free” young adult black South Africans simply wants to put that legacy of violence and recrimination behind them. Highly recommended. (T. Keogh)