Promised Land (2002)

 

 

 

 

Director:     Jason Xenopoulos.

Starring:     Nick Boraine (George Neethling), Lida Botha (Kotie), Daniel Browde (Paul), Tobie Cronje (Fanie Raubenheimer), Dan Robbertse (Hendrik), Ian Roberts (Gerhard Snyman), Wilma Stockenström (Mart), Grant Swanby (Johannes), Yvonne Van Den Bergh (Carla), Louis Van Niekerk (Hattingh).

Apartheid-resistant Afrikaner farmers cast as evildoers

 

Spoiler Warning:

South Africa.  A man with a shotgun stops a man named George from going any farther.  And he wants to know what George is doing here?  The visitor says he is looking for a farm called Rietvlei that at one time belonged to his mother.  He adds that his mother is dead.  The fellow with the gun believes his story, so he offers to shake hands with the stranger, saying his name is Hattingh.  The newcomer is named George Neethling and he came all the way from London, England.  Hattingh tells him that the roads are not safe at night, so he better come home with him. 

George gets a very simple meal at Hattingh's farm house.  At the table are mother and father, George and the three brother, the youngest of which is named Paul   Hattingh says they very rarely ever have meat to eat anymore.  George says he is going to his mother's farm to check out her affairs and then he will be returning to London, England.  He adds that he left South Africa when he was just five years old, so he barely remembers anything about the area here.  Hattingh's wife tells George that when his mother lived in South Africa, she was very beautiful.  They are going to start the dinner, but mother remembers that Carla is not here.  They call for her.  She comes out with an extremely short haircut as if she just started basic training in the men's section of the army.  During the prayer, George looks through his fingers and sees Carla staring hard at him. 

They are having chicken soup with the delicacy being the feet of the chicken.  They give George one of the feet in his bowl, but he can't stand to eat it, so he removes it from his bowl and wraps it up in his napkin.  Paul and Carla both see him doing this.  There is some tension because George doesn't know if Paul or Carla will tell on him. 

Paul shows George where he will be sleeping.  He tells George that he better give him the chicken foot because after awhile it will start to smell.  George gives it to him and Paul quickly downs it. 

Hattingh tells his eldest son to "call him".  He gets out a radio to place a call.  George goes to the bathroom to urinate.  Just as he is in the middle of urinating, Carla comes into the bathroom.  George holds his urine flow and Carla says sorry.  Carla leaves the room and now George can continue his urination.  He smiles and laughs a little at all the crazy things he has seen since meeting Mr. Hattingh. 

George remembers when he was just a kid sitting on the beach.  His mother calls him.  He wakes up suddenly from this dream. 

In the morning George gets up and wonders where is everyone?  He hears radio music and goes to investigate.  Paul is sitting in George's convertible listening to the music.  One of his brothers yells at him to turn off that kaffir music. (Kaffir in Afrikaans means the "N" word).  Paul turns the music up in volume.  The brother goes over to threaten Paul, but does not get him to turn the music off.  Now George goes over to the car and turns the music off. 

At the table in the kitchen, George tries to tell them that he wants to get going to see his mother's farm.  For some reason, the family doesn't want him to go there, at least not yet.  George keeps saying he has to go, but they keep saying that he must stay.  George gives in, finally.  The man giving him the hardest problem is what the family calls "their leader".  His name is Gerhard. 

George sits under a tree and studies a road map of the area.  He takes some pictures of Carla chopping wood.  George goes over to her and says congratulations on her engagement to Gerhard.  She asks him what does he want?  What does he expect out of visiting his mother's farm?  She also asks him if he loved his mother?  George says, of course.  She answers:  "Then go home."  George tells her that there is a fortune in his mother's old farm because there is a lot of water underneath the ground.  All they have to do is sink a well and lay some pipes and the area's drought will be over.  Later George visits the family graveyard.  He then goes into a barn and starts taking photos.  While taking photos, he sees a door with a sign on it saying:  "Danger", with a skull and cross bones.  He tries to open the door but he can't get it open. 

He goes back to taking photos, but then he sees Paul in the hay loft which gives a bit of a fright.  Paul tells him to come up. He tells George not to tell the others because he is going to show George a secret place.  He has a big collection of lots of odds and ends that he found over the years.  Mostly they are things left behind by those people who have moved out of the area.  George asks if they get visitors from outside the area, but Paul looks a little upset by the question.  Now Paul asks George about London.  Would he do well if he went to London?  George says he believes that Paul would do very well. 

George picks up a book.  He opens it and finds that is some kind of a journal written by his uncle "Pieter Neethling".  Paul says he doesn't know George's uncle, but George says the inscription on the book is by his uncle and it is to Carla and Paul. 

George continues investigating the place, taking photos.  Hattingh tells George that the government makes it so difficult for them to keep living in the area, that it forces most of the home owners out.  He says the government through the Land Bank wants to steal their land in order to give it to the blacks.  Hattingh has a generous offer from the government for his land, but he says he won't sell because you can't put a price on freedom.   He also tells George:  "Happiness is for Jews and kaffirs.  You're an Afrikaner, you can't ever change that." 

At night in the living room, Hattingh asks George if he still wants to see his mother's place?  The place is not going to look anything like what George may have remembered.  It's so bad that it is going to upset George.  But George still wants to go. Hattingh says no one has lived on the land for years.  George says that they have been sending money regularly for the upkeep of the farm.  Hattingh explains that his Uncle Pieter has been gone for a long time.  His uncle was arrested during the time of the troubles.  George is a bit peeved that he was not told anything about this. 

Going to bed George sees a photo of his uncle on one of the walls.  He tries to get a good look at it with his candle, but a gust of wind blows it out.  Carla comes and re-lights his candle, but she also stands in front of the photo of his uncle so he can't see it. 

George dreams of himself on the beach again.  His very pretty mother calls him to come along with her.  He chases after her.  He keeps running up the hill of sand, but gets nowhere.  He awakens from his dream.  He hears a commotion outside and goes to investigate.  He finds the two older and bigger brothers trying to force a chicken head down Paul's throat.  So George knocks over some type of iron contraption which makes a lot of noise and allows Paul time enough to flee the room.  George glares at the two brothers. 

At breakfast, the middle brother starts to harass Paul again, but Carla stops him by sinking a big kitchen knife into the table near the offending brother. 

Hattingh's wife, Carl and Paul take a ride in George's convertible over to see a friend of theirs.  They pass a farm now owned and run by a black family.  Neither the white or the black family waves to each other. 

They reach Fanie's house. Hattingh's wife introduces George to Aunt Miemie.  The owner of the farm comes over and gives George a slap on the back as he says that it's sure good to see an Afrikaner from abroad.  Aunt Miemi says that George's mother was a wild one.  They used to throw some big parities at Rietvlei.  George is trying to listen to her, but the man keeps bothering him with his own talk about poetry.  Carla comes into the living room to get George out of there. 

George asks her to go with him to visit Rietvlei.  Carla at first says no, but then yes, when she sees that George is going to go anyway.  George starts asking her questions and she asks why?  Because he's interested in her.  No, not that way, because she's out of bound, off-limits.  Tomorrow is her engagement party.  She tells him that he shouldn't always believe what people tell him. 

They stop the car before reaching the farm.  They walk up a hill to get an overview of the farm.  When George looks, however, there is almost no sign of a farm there.  He is a bit shocked.  He goes closer and finds the ruins of the large farm house.  Carla tells him that "they" blew up the buildings.  She says the soldiers blew up everything with dynamite.  She then tells him to go home.  He just doesn't belong here.

George says at one time there was a fountain here.  Now he remembers back to a time of a big party.  It's a birthday party for George.

George tells Carla that his uncle must have been Public Enemy Number One for the government to have done this much destruction to the farm.  Again Carla refers to George as an outsider, saying that he is not "one of them".   She again tells him to go home, while he can. 

George goes to his glove compartment and takes out the urn with his mother's ashes.  He spreads the ashes in a strong wind over the ground of Rietvlei. 

George packs up his stuff to go home.  Paul comes over and tells George that he should have taken him with him to see Rietvlei.  George says he's sorry and Paul throws the framed photo of his uncle onto the floor by his feet.  The glass is all broken up.  George picks up the photo and examines it carefully.

The leader Gerhard and his mother have arrived.  He's all smiles, but a little later he roughly grabs George by the shirt and tells him firmly that he should have waited to go to Rietvleiung so that Gerhard could have gone with him:  "In the future, you take my advice.  It will make things easier for all of us." 

At dinner Gerhard refers to skepzels (?) and George asks what is that?  It's any man without a soul:  Jews,  kaffirs, and communists.  George says:  "Anyone who is not an Afrikaner." 

Gerhard asks if George is ready to sell Rietvlei?  George says he hasn't made up his mind.  Then Gerhard says that they are at war.  He doesn't want the kaffirs to get the land.  The anti-Christ walks the land as it is now.  George can't believe what he is hearing.  Gerhard wants him to fight on their side in the war.  George says he's leaving.  Gerhard manhandles George again and grabs his papers out of his bag.  He says he will give them back to him when he sees George at tomorrow evening's engagement party.

George is angry about being pushed around like this.  He sees Paul and goes over to him.  Paul leaves a note for George.  George picks it up and unfolds it.  It's a drawing of the skull and crossbones indicating danger.  With the drawing is the key to the secret room marked with the danger sign in the barn.  He starts looking around and finds grenades, submachine guns and dynamite.  He hears footsteps approaching the door to the room.  Father and the two older brothers come into the room.  They come in and transfer the weapons from the crate to a stronger box and then carry that out.  George sees some of the men leave in a pick-up truck.  The middle brother now burns some papers. 

After the middle brother leaves, George throws some dirt on the fire to put it out.  then he snatches out one of the papers from the garbage can that didn't burn.  There is a deed of sale between the seller Pietir Neethling and the purchaser, the Land Bank.  The document talks about the water rights going to the Land Bank too.  George also finds a nice watch engraved with:  "Pieter, I will always love you.  Carla."

Did the Afrikaners kill Pietir for selling his land and for falling in love with Carla?  Did they blow up Rietvlei and not the government? 

George tells the middle brother that he is going to see the police.  And he's going to find Pietir.  The middle brother protests that the police are the bloody enemy.

George sees Carla and walks over to her with a strange look of skepticism on his face.  She asks him what's wrong and he shows Carla the watch that she gave to Pietir.  She asks:  "What do you want?"  Georges says:  "The truth."   He adds that she can tell him or she can tell it to the police.  George tries to start his car, but they have already made it impossible to start.  He asks the middle brother what has he done, but he won't say.  Now the middle brother sees Paul and starts harassing him again.  George helps Paul up and is taking him to the farm house.  All of a sudden the middle brother starts charging George, who sidesteps him and helps push him forward, knocking down the gate with his face landing on the sidewalk.  The two of them are about to duke it out, when father and eldest brother arrives blowing the pickup-tucks horn. 

George goes over to the pick-up truck to tell the father that middle brother did something to his car.  Middle brother tries to shut George up by hitting him, but father intervenes and slaps his son.  The father apologizes to George.

Paul tells George to take him with him to London.  George says he never said he would take Paul with him.  But Paul says he never said he wouldn't take him either.  He says he was busy all this morning trying to arrange things so they could get away easier.  George asks Paul to tell him what happened to Pietir?  Paul says it was all his fault.  Paul throws on the bed two sparkplugs and a passport.  He says he found these items in the dump. 

George goes to Paul's secret room.  He finds Carla crying there.  George asks her again for the truth.  He says that Pietir was not arrested.  He was murdered by Hattagh and Niel.  They killed him for the water.  Carla says they blew up the whole place, including the water tables, while Pietir was still in the farm house.  She says that Pietir was killed because he was regarded as a traitor.  George says she's lying, that Hattagh killed Pietir out of jealousy and now Carla is going to marry Pietir's murderer.  She gets very angry, starts pushing George, asking him why did he come back, because they were almost forgetting what happened.  George struggles with her and pins her on a mattress on the floor.  He catches himself, says he's sorry and takes his hands off her.  She pulls George toward her and they kiss.  A little later they are having sex.  (Some nudity.) 

After sex they lay together on the mattress.  (Left breast exposed.)  Pietir wanted to sell the water rights to the government to supply water for everyone.  But the Afrikaners imploded the underground springs.  George asks why does Paul blame himself for the death of Pietir?   Carla says he shouldn't because they would have found out anyway.  George says, but Paul told them about it.  But Paul was jealous.  Carla says he was too close to Pietir.  He never wanted it to end like it did. 

George asks Carla if she is going to marry Gerhard?  She says:  "I was going to."   George now asks her to come with him back to London.  They can leave tomorrow morning.. She says that George must go get help.  Pietir's body is not far away.  They are going to blow up the land.  George says he can't go now because Paul and she need his help.  Maybe he won't be able to stop them, but he could make it more difficult for them. 

The Afrikaners meet at a farm house called Kommandodrift.  George, Carla and Paul arrive together.  Other families arrive. Dinner is served.  One of the women says:  "Heaven knows there's been enough shooting and murders to recommend all of us being at this table tonight . . . We had everything.  What did we do wrong?  What did we do to deserve this?  Do you call this a life?"  Others are shocked by her remarks.  So the music begins and the dancing.  George dances with Carla.  They don't seem to care what Gerhard has to say. 

The Afrikaners have a symbol that looks too close to be a swastika for comfort.  Gerhard sits down at the table and becomes more and more angry.  He bangs on the water glass to get everyone's attention.  He brings Carla up with him.  He goes into his speech about his little right-wing extremist view of life.  Now they all want George to say something.  He says he would like to thank everyone for their hospitality, but he can't and he won't.  He has one word to describe their situation:  "Lies."  This starts a big argument and almost all the men point their guns at George. 

All of a sudden the lights go on outside and the police announce their presence.  Gerhard says that George called for the police.  Paul stands up and says, no, it was he who contacted the police.  Gerhard still keeps his pistol pointed at George's head.  The police give them three seconds more and Gerhard lowers his weapon.  But now the middle brother points his weapon toward the window.  He is hit by a police bullet and goes down.  The right-wing extremists now all start firing through the windows. The eldest brother is killed by bullets.  Paul slinks low to the floor.  Aunt Mimie is killed.  Gerhard grabs a submachine gun and starts firing wildly.  He is hit many times and goes down.

The police now enter the house.  Hattingh is dead.  Paul's mother grabs a shotgun on the floor and walks over to Paul calling him Satan.  She shoots him at very close range killing him.  George pushes the mother down and runs over to Paul followed by Carla.

Now in George's dream he actually makes it up onto the top of the sand dune and goes with his mother. 

George asks Carla to come with him, but she won't.  She cries, but feels she must stay and help the children of the families.  Now George goes with the police.  Carla stands in the rain watching the police cars leave.  

 

Spoiler Warning:  Damn good movie.  It starts out fairly normally, but soon George, who has come to South Africa to settle his mother's accounts following her recent death, realizes that he is in another world  --  a world full of hatred and danger.  He is in the world of the right-wing extremists, of the Afrikaners, the ones who were the biggest supporters of Apartheid and who fought a Civil War against the British and the government to maintain their control of their slaves.  And soon enough he learns that these people he is amongst are not only weird, strange and out of touch with reality, but they are aksi dangerous extremists willing to get their way through the use of a great deal of fire power and dynamite.  George becomes a captive of this group of weirdoes and his attempts to escape are all thwarted.  George is in big trouble. 

This is partly a detective story, because George tries his best to get to the truth of what happened to his mother's farm and who killed his Uncle Pietir?  Everyone wants to keep the secrets of the extremist group they belong to (with its redneck preacher out of hell) quiet.   

I have written elsewhere that the country whose history most resembles that of America and its history is South Africa under Apartheid.  The parallels are unbelievably close and just too frequent to be considered coincidental.  The history of the Afrikaners is very similar to our history of white southerners, including their many right-wing extremist groups.  Like American history, Afrikaner history is just as racist because both countries faced very similar conditions of a huge division between whites and blacks in their country.

The Only Non-racist History of the United States
www.vernonjohns.org/vernjohns/sthtofc.html

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

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