Pistorius and Van Breda: Lights, camera and criminal action

Theatrical: 'In the Pistorius case, his bionic legs distinguish him from everyone else — plus we already know he’s guilty, so it doesn’t really matter.' (Charlie Shoemaker, Getty)

Theatrical: 'In the Pistorius case, his bionic legs distinguish him from everyone else — plus we already know he’s guilty, so it doesn’t really matter.' (Charlie Shoemaker, Getty)

THE FIFTH COLUMN

Walking past a small-town magistrate’s court the other day I noticed a very cheery roadside billboard out front that may have been on loan from the traffic department or left behind by Boswell Wilkie Circus. There was a rape case scheduled for 3pm and a bail hearing was coming up at 11am. Lunch was scheduled for 1pm and on a rolling subtext attendees were warned to expect delays, which turned out to be a happy coincidence as it applied to both road users and people awaiting trial.

Passing the bonanza display I was pleasantly surprised by the magistrate’s willingness to try new things, especially with the trial of world’s best-known unnamed suspect, Henri van Breda, set to start soon.

In that spirit, I’d Iike to propose some Hollywood razzmatazz to add production value to the Van Breda proceedings because, let’s face it, when they switched from badly drawn pencil sketches to live action the slow-turning wheels of justice became show business. And, as we all know, there’s no business like show business and more than one colour tie to wear when your split personality is up for discussion.

For starters, let’s consider courtroom lighting or the lack thereof. South African courtrooms appear to be using energy-saving bulbs that unfortunately put everyone in a bad light. To a layman like me that is confusing, because everyone now looks guilty.

In the Pistorius case, his bionic legs distinguish him from everyone else – plus we already know he’s guilty, so it doesn’t really matter. In the matter of the world’s best-known unnamed suspect versus the state, however, we have no idea who the guilty party is even though we all (bar the attorney for the defence) have already decided that the best-known unnamed suspect is the only one who could have wielded the axe. So, for the Van Breda case, I would argue, casting a shadow over the accused could only help the plotline immensely.

Sound effects are another great way to help the story along. In a society where binge-watching is still legal it’s so important to keep viewers glued to the screens with gimmicks. Would it hurt to count the years of Oscar’s sentence with a Japanese gong? Or announce the best-known unnamed suspect’s long-awaited arrival with trumpet song?

Personally, I’m over the Pistorius case. It’s been dragging on for ages and how long can a grown man cry in court before it gets old? But I’m keen to see what the team behind the Van Breda production can offer us. Judging by the amount of time they spent in pre-production – over a year and a half – I’m expecting nothing short of spectacular.

Will it be a brand-new cast? Or will Judge Thokozile Masipa see through her celebrity-case contract to the bitter end? Will Netflix pick up the series or will Hlaudi Motsoeneng claim it as a 100% South African triple axe murder? Will Motsoeneng even show an axe on air?

As with the case, many questions remain unanswered and I, for one, will be tuning in to find the answers.

 
JS Smit

JS Smit

JS Smit is a Cape Town-based freelance writer. Formally trained as a copywriter, he took a break from ads in 2010 to write a blog for the Mail & Guardian's Thought Leader and since 2015 has written for the Mail & Guardian. Read more from JS Smit

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