Connie Field (dir), 'Fair Play'

IssueApril 2010
Review by Ernest Rodker

This rousing film – one of a series of seven films under the heading Have You Heard from Johannesburg? – documents the successful campaigns leading to the sports boycott of apartheid South Africa in the late 1960s and ’70s.

Following the launch of the “Stop the Seventy Tour” in September 1969, Fair Play highlights the coming together, in Britain, of students, trade unionists and committed citizens in mass, direct action against the South African rugby tour.

Only a few months later a high profile campaign led to the cancellation of the South African cricket tour, just days before it was to begin in 1970.

This dramatic success encouraged a similar campaign in Australia in 1971, and ended with the fiercely-contested rugby tour of New Zealand in 1973 – the last tour by any significant South African team until after the collapse of apartheid.

In one scene after another, large numbers of protesters are shown out-manoeuvring police lines and ignoring security fences to occupy pitches to interrupt or even stop the Springboks from playing their matches.

In these sequences and the interspersed interviews with activists like Dennis Brutus, the renowned South African freedom fighter and poet – who was also key to organising the eventual expulsion of South Africa from the Olympic games – the power of peaceful direct action and civil disobedience is clearly demonstrated.

Concentrating more on action than debate, this very watchable film shows how people acting together in solidarity, for a just cause, not waiting for the support of hypocritical governments or powerful and conniving corporations, can challenge both private and public authorities and effect dramatic social change.

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