Movies

'Endgame' looks at the risks taken to end apartheid

October 23, 2009 

PASADENA -- The traditional feature film release cycle is to start on movie screens and then move to television via DVDs, cable or network broadcasts.

A different approach has been plotted for "Endgame," which starts on television tonight on the PBS series "Masterpiece Contemporary" and then moves to theaters.

Rebecca Eaton, "Masterpiece Contemporary" executive producer, says the original plan was to open "Endgame" in theaters first to earn Oscar attention. Because the movie aired on British TV, it's no longer eligible for Oscar consideration.

Now Eaton says the goal is to convey the film's message to the largest audience possible.

"We're not going to make a ton of money from this even if it is a hit. But we want to make sure that everybody knows about it and can see it wherever, preferably on 'Masterpiece,' then possibly [at a] screening in the movie theaters [or on] DVD," Eaton says.

The film is based on Robert Harvey's book "The Fall of Apartheid" that revealed how a gold-mining company was instrumental in bringing together members of the South African government and the leadership of the African National Congress for secret talks in England that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa. The film version stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, William Hurt and Jonny Lee Miller.

Eaton wants everyone to know about the spying, terrorism, blackmail and fear that surrounded the explosive negotiations put together by Michael Young, an employee with the British mining house. Young says it wasn't business that motivated his actions.

"I personally found apartheid morally repugnant and offensive, but that in itself isn't sufficient because the next question is, 'What do you do about it?' We can all shout, and we can all demonstrate, and that's all to the good because it creates a climate," Young says. "But I think there was a more specific question, 'What could I do about it?' "

The film shows how the years Young spent keeping the negotiations going were filled with danger.

His house was watched and his telephone was tapped. It was his trips to Africa that created the most terror for him because he knew that was where he could be grabbed and never seen again.

Now his efforts will be seen first on the small screen and then theatrically through the unique release schedule for "Endgame."

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at rbentley@fresnobee.com or (559) 441-6355. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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