Endgame is a 2009 British film directed by Pete Travis based upon the book The Fall of the Apartheid by Robert Harvey. The film includes several stars, the best-being William Hurt. Endgame dramatizes the final days of apartheid in South Africa. It was filmed at locations in both England and Cape Town, South Africa in the first half of 2008 and was broadcast on British Television (BBC) in January of 2009. It is now available on DVD and runs 101 minutes.
Endgame focuses on secret talks held between the African National Congress (ANC) and the National Party (NP) in a country house in Somerset, England. The most intriguing story-line of Endgame revolves around an emotional bond of friendship and trust formed between Willie Esterhuyse (William Hurt) and Thabo Mbeki. Esterhuyse was a professor of philosophy at the University of Stellenbosch and Mbeki, who later became the president of South Africa after Nelson Mandela’s retirement, was the director of information for the ANC. Their relationship is what this movie is all about in the end, thus revealing how friendship can lead to peace.
This amazing story of reconciliation centers on several secret talks arranged by Michael Young, a British businessman who worked for Consolidated Goldfields. (Goldfields was a firm with a very large financial interest in South Africa.) The talks, which the film sets up nicely through some harrowing scenes and intriguing dialog, were all held in an English house owned by Consolidated Goldfields in Somerset. It was in this setting, far away from the press and the various special interests groups within South Africa (on the brink of a very bloody civil war), two things happened. First, men were able to spend time together and share meals and drinks in a relaxed and personal setting. Second, in this context a real bond of trust was formed between Esterhuyse and Mbeki, a bond that became essential to transforming the tense situation at home.
Consolidated Goldfields became the subject of sanctions by other nations during the latter stages of apartheid. In one tense scene, Young and Rudolf Agnew, chairman of Consolidated Goldfields, leave their offices in London and are mobbed by screaming anti-apartheid protesters who batter their car, unaware that the two men were privately engaged in the very talks that would lead to the release of Nelson Mandela and then to the end of apartheid a few years later.
The final chapter in Robert Harvey’s book, The Fall of Apartheid, was written by Michael Young, at the urging of Thabo Mbeki. It is this final chapter that actually led to the script for Endgame.
Endgame is a moving film based upon real-life facts that helped to prevent the disintegration of a nation near total chaos. South Africa is still experiencing unrest and may know tensions for decades to come. Americans can surely understand this since we experienced the history of post-Civil War racism for well over one hundred years.
Nelson Mandela became the first South African politician to gain an international following. He became, during my lifetime, an internationally famous iconic figure who still draws major attention (in books and film) even though he has lived into his nineties and is now out of public life entirely. Is Mandela a true political hero? I have friends who think not. I believe otherwise. Endgame prompted me to head to my public library to check out the book Mandela: A Critical Life, by Tom Lodge (2006). Reading this book has helped me to see the various sides of Mandela’s interesting life. It has also strengthened my view that Mandela rightly played a very important role in ending apartheid and keeping the peace in South Africa. The recent World Cup games reveal again just how far South Africa has come in less than three decades.
The strategy employed in Endgame was also used in Northern Ireland by the IRA and its opponents to end violence there. I believe this film should be watched by anyone interested in seeing how peace can be achieved through friendship and trust. If both parties are willing to give up something, and meet their opponents in a place of trust and honest dealing, a great deal can be done to bring about peace. (Churches could well afford to watch this film to see how they can and should pursue peace.) The film mentions, in the closing credits, that Hamas has also employed the Endgame approach to peace. One can pray that it might work. I have my honest doubts since Hamas will not fully renounce violence and Israel will not give up the contested lands they took, and subsequently settled, during the Six-Day War (1967). As a Christian I am committed to praying for peace in Israel whether or not anyone thinks it is possible or not. Those who most oppose peace in Israel are very often Christians (embracing some form of Zionism) who believe war in the Middle East is somehow God’s design based upon an extremely faulty view of apocalyptic biblical texts. In this case bad theology harms the prospects of real peace and saving lives.