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Across the border by Vredeveld, Saskia

In this film, four white South African veterans who fought on the border of occupied Namibia and Angola in the 70s and 80s together with thousands of other young white conscript soldiers reflect on their terrifying adventures. They were part of the elite Crowbar unit, a death squad responsible for killing many people. During the South African Border War, they fought against what was known as the Rooi gevaar (red danger), the government term for the ANC and SWAPO liberation movements.

Personal Interest
The documentary portrays four white ex-Crowbar veterans. Leon shows no regret for his actions; in his view the fight against the so called terrorists was effective. John, Sean and Mark are still at war, but within themselves. They recount their traumatic war experiences and how they have since tried to pick up the pieces. They are confronted with psychological problems as a result of trauma they have not yet dealt with.

Political Interest
In the 70s and 80s, white South African troops commissioned by the Apartheid government fought against the ANC and SWAPO liberation movements. The Communist SWAPO (South West Africa People's Organization) in Namibia and the initially socialist ANC (African National Congress) in South Africa represented the interests of the black population. The Apartheid movement was maintained due to government fears that that these leftist organizations would start a revolution.

Historic Interest
The Apartheid system existed in South Africa and Namibia from 1948 to 1990. The ANC opposed Apartheid, but was not recognized as an official political party. It finally received official recognition after the liberation of Nelson Mandela in 1990. The ANC has participated in government in South Africa since 1994 and Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. In 1999 he was succeeded by Thabo Mbeki, who was followed by Kgalema Motlanthe in 2008.

Human Rights Interest
The years of struggle in South Africa and Namibia cost thousands of lives. In 1995 the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to investigate human rights violations. The committee heard testimony from more than 20,000 victims. In 1998 the Commission presented its findings and its final report followed in 2003. Apartheid was condemned as a crime against humanity. However, the Commission emphasized that most victims are not South African, but Namibian or Angolan.

Social Interest
After decades of war and misery, the many scars of Apartheid are still visible in South African society. Though Apartheid has been officially abolished, the country is still divided. The crime rate is so high that some compare the current situation to a war zone. Former soldiers who have not received the help they need to re-integrate into society often fall prey to a life of crime. "The rich get health care and all the help they need, while the poor only have drink, crime and each other", says one of the veterans.

Vredeveld, Saskia
Peacefield Films
55 min.
Year of release
Afrikaans, English, Dutch

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