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Catch a Fire (film)

Catch A Fire
US theatrical release poster
Directed by Phillip Noyce
Produced by Tim Bevan
Eric Fellner
Anthony Minghella
Robyn Slovo
Written by Shawn Slovo
Starring Derek Luke
Tim Robbins
Bonnie Henna
Music by Philip Miller
Cinematography Ron Fortunato
Garry Phillips
Edited by Jill Bilcock
Distributed by Focus Features (US)
Universal Pictures International (UK)
Release dates
  • 27 October 2006 (2006-10-27) (US)
  • 23 March 2007 (2007-03-23) (UK)
Running time
101 min[1]
Country United Kingdom
United States
South Africa
Language English
Budget $14 million
Box office $5,724,236

Catch a Fire is a 2006 biographical thriller film about activists against apartheid in South Africa. The film was directed by Phillip Noyce, from a screenplay written by Shawn Slovo. Slovo's father, Joe Slovo, and mother Ruth First, leaders of the South African Communist Party and activists in the Anti-Apartheid Movement, appear as characters in the film, while her sister, Robyn Slovo, is one of the film's producers and also plays their mother Ruth First. Catch a Fire was shot on location in South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.


  • Plot 1
  • Cast 2
  • Critical reception 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


The film begins in "Northern Coalfields, South Africa, 1980". It revolves around Patrick Chamusso, a young, apolitical man (played by Derek Luke) who is accused of carrying out an attack against the government, and an Afrikaner police officer, Nic Vos, played by Tim Robbins. Vos is in charge of locating the perpetrators of a recent bomb attack against the Secunda CTL synthetic fuel refinery, which is the largest coal liquefaction plant in the world.

Patrick is unwillingly swept into Vos's investigation due to his inability to provide a satisfactory explanation for his whereabouts at the time of the bombing (he was actually having an affair with a woman not his wife). Eventually Patrick, his wife, Precious, (played by Bonnie Henna), and his family are tortured and savagely abused by Vos and Vos's subordinates. Desperate, Patrick says that he is willing to confess to a crime he did not commit to protect his family from torture. At last, Vos finally concludes that Patrick is innocent, and orders his release.

Fuelled by the anger at the injustices he and his family suffered, Patrick joins Umkhonto we Sizwe, the guerrilla military wing of the African National Congress and becomes exactly what Vos had initially accused him of being. This decision was an act of revenge against the government for killing his friend and tormenting not only himself but his wife as well. He attempts to execute a plan to attack Secunda, the oil refinery he used to work for, by first bombing its adjacent water supply facilities, and 15 minutes later triggering the main explosion within the refinery itself. This would allow the refinery's workforce to flee between the two explosions, and not be harmed. Also, the damage of the first bomb would reduce the possibility of successfully extinguishing the fire caused by the second, main explosion. Patrick succeeds in the first part, but the second bomb is discovered by Vos and deactivated.

Patrick is arrested and sentenced to 24 years in prison, after his wife goes to Vos and tells him where Patrick is, because she fell for a simple trick in which Vos left photographs of Patrick talking to a female member of the ANC. Through her unjust jealousy she sells him out. He is released early due to the abolition of apartheid.

Precious, who has orphaned children in South Africa to provide a home for kids who lost their families during the anti-apartheid struggle.


Critical reception

The film received positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 75% out of 141 professional critics gave the film a positive review, with a rating average of 6.6/10 and the critical consensus being: "No stranger to the political thriller, director Phillip Noyce tackles apartheid and terrorism with experienced gusto, while Derek Luke and Tim Robbins hand in nuanced performances."[3]


  1. ^ Catch a FireBBFC: Retrieved 2013-03-11
  2. ^ South Africa's Henna Is on 'Fire', Washington Post, accessed July 2013
  3. ^ Catch a Fire (2006). Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved 15 September 2012.

External links

  • Catch a Fire at the Internet Movie Database
  • Catch a Fire at AllMovie
  • Catch a Fire at Box Office Mojo
  • Catch a Fire Reviews at
  • Film web page with trailer.
  • Audio interview with director, Phillip Noyce, on the Afrikaans in Sydney podcast.
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