SHEP­HERDS AND BUTCH­ERS

North & South - - Review - JENNY NI­CHOLLS

Drama ( R16)

What ef­fect do ex­e­cu­tions have on those who must wit­ness a hang­ing, or han­dle the bod­ies af­ter­ward? This slow-burn court­room drama is based on a novel by Chris Marnewick, a South African ex-high Court judge now liv­ing in New Zealand. The story is based on his ex­pe­ri­ences in the apartheid-era killing fields of the South African le­gal sys­tem, which ex­e­cuted 1123 in­mates in the 1980s alone. Steve Coogan plays a lawyer de­fend­ing death-row prison war­den Leon Labuschagne, who shoots seven men in a road­side en­counter af­ter be­ing part of 32 state ex­e­cu­tions in two weeks. Labuschagne, a teenager, worked with the con­demned – feed­ing them, sit­ting with them dur­ing vis­its – be­fore help­ing to hang them. The film slowly re­veals the depth of the psy­chic cost to the young man in be­ing both “shep­herd and butcher”.

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