Beautiful landscapes. Friendly locals. Shopping. Sports.
I admit that the first time I saw the ad for South Africa tourism—in my local theater, before the movie—I drifted off, numbed by the visual clichés. But the last frame made me sit up and pay attention. To my surprise, I even got a bit emotional.
What got me all misty was that two-word tagline—"It's possible." Sure, it encompasses all the activities we've just witnessed. Come to South Africa, where a safari is possible! A soccer match is possible! Shopping for souvenirs is possible! But it was the tagline juxtaposed with the image of two smiling men, one white, one black that got to me. Mundane? Yes, until you consider the context. South Africa still has a ton of social and political problems, but just 20 years ago that cheerful juxtaposition would have been . . . well, impossible.
By the way, if you're interested in South Africa's post-apartheid history, I recommend renting Invictus, Clint Eastwood's 2009 film about Nelson Mandela and the 1995 Rugby World Cup. (It will be released on DVD May 18.) Even if you don't generally care for sports movies, this one is worth your while because of the political story and Eastwood's skillful direction. Matt Damon is quite credible, accent and all, as the captain of the national rugby team. And Morgan Freeman is . . . Morgan Freeman.
Even more highly recommended: Long Night's Journey into Day, a powerful 2000 documentary, directed by Oakland residents Deborah Hoffmann and Frances Reid, about South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be rentable; check your local library (the Oakland Public Library has a copy), or buy the DVD from the filmmakers.