From Prime Time South Africa.Television and cinema advertisement. 1996. 1 min. Client: Telkom, parastatal telecommunications service. Agency: Ogilvy Mather Rightford Searle-Tripp.
The storyline begins with cinema verite-cum-actuality shots of an African township funeral, suggesting that someone has become another victim of political violence. Cuts through a small boy's journey on foot from the funeral to a local store, where he passes on the news to the owner, who in turn passes the message along on the phone to an important bureaucrat. Cuts to the countryside, where the call is received in a similar store and the message passed on to another young boy. This child runs to a house where he passes the message, obviously about the death of one of his children, to an aged man. Cuts to an interior shot showing the man removing an AK47 automatic rifle from beneath the floor of the house. Cuts to an aerial shot of the old man and the child walking hand-in-hand along a steep escarpment, then to a close full body shot of the man smashing the rifle against the rocks of the escarpment. Final shots show youngster and old man walking hand-in-hand away from the scene.
The commercial is designed to present the client as a bridge between a violent past and a peaceful future.
The advert obviously wants to show the client as a factor in the ways South Africans can overcome the past. The commercial is beautifully made, with sound and music combining subtly to evoke a sense of both the futility of clinging to the antagonisms of the past, and the openness of the future to other possibilities. By using the very typically South African ambience of the township funeral, which had been a powerful site of political resistance under apartheid, as the starting point, the storyline places the client as a link between past and present.
The small boys who pass on the messages, and the old man who breaks the past by smashing the weapon, place the client at a nexus between generations. The funeral is presided over by a typically activist preacher, and his words (like `comrade', `brother' and so on) locate the scene firmly in the unstable and frequently violent present. The past, the knowledge of which is etched in the lines of the old man's face, is gone but not forgotten in the presence of the hidden assault rifle. The future is in the children, both the youngster who relays the message from the township and the one who must tell the obviously bereaved parent (or grandparent?).
The final shot suggests that the future lies in communication, both physically in the link between urban and rural cultures, and culturally in the memories both of those who were there before the struggle erupted into violence, on the one hand, and of the young people on the other who suffered while the struggle was carried on by their immediate elders.