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Wrong Side Of The Bus - Movie Review - 2009

Seeking Personal Reconciliation

About.com Rating 4.5 Star Rating


Wrong Side Of The Bus - Movie Review - 2009

Wrong Side Of The Bus poster art

First Run Features
Some forty years ago, when Sidney Bloch was a medical student in Apartheid-ruled South Africa, he witnessed his 'colored' classmates being discriminated against -- they weren't allowed in the rooms of white patients, were barred from certain labs and facilities and restricted in whom they were permitted to treat.

The High Price of Complicity

Although Bloch never embraced the racist beliefs that were manifested in his country's Aparthied policies, nor did he personally behave in a racist way, he -- by his own admission -- stood by and allowed it to happen. He did not approve of the situation, but he did not protest it, nor did he take any actions to bring about its termination. He compares Apartheid-ruled South Africa to Nazi Germany, and feels that his non-action is comparable to the behavior of those who stood by and watched but did nothing to stop the Holocaust, during which much of Bloch's family was put to death.

Bloch's only protest of the system was expressed in his decision to leave his homeland and reject its Apartheid government.

The day after his graduation from medical school, Dr. Bloch left for Israel. He subsequently moved to Melbourne, Australia, where he established a very successful psychiatric practice, became a highly respected university professor and a renown author whose writings about mental health have been published around the globe. However, despite his success, Dr. Bloch is plagued by guilt he feels about his failure to do anything to change conditions for non-whites -- his classmates and others whom he knew, and knew to have been discriminated against -- in South Africa.

Rod Freedman's documentary begins as Dr. Bloch prepares to attend his medical school class reunion, the prospect of which seems to bring his feelings of guilt to the fore. He is an ethical, progressive man, with high standards for his own behavior, which he measures against the actions of those who did actively protest against Apartheid.

Persistent Feelings of Guilt

Bloch recalls the incident that began his internal struggle. He got on a bus which had separate areas for white and non-white passengers. He sat in the 'colored' section, but the bus driver told him to move and, fearing arrest and punishment, move he did.

Dr. Bloch regrets having capitulated. He thinks he should have stood his ground, and that he and his white classmates should have refused to do whatever their 'colored' colleagues were not allowed to do.

Much about Bloch's emotional state is revealed during intense on camera conversations between Bloch and his teenage son, Aaron, who is about to visit South Africa for the first time when he accompanies his father to the reunion.

The relationship between Bloch and son is problematical. It has clearly suffered from Bloch's emotional blocks, which have left Aaron feeling left out. Harshly critical of his father, Aaron narrates the film, providing insider insights into Bloch's character and concerns.

Bloch has decided to ask the reunion committee for permission to invite his former classmates to a formal reconciliation meeting at which whites can apologize to non-whites -- including one Chinese student -- in the class. He gets a green light, but doesn't know whether his classmates -- whites or non-whites -- will attend the meeting, or what those who do will say to each other after all these years. Bloch also seeks out black South Africans who worked at the medical school or for his family, and asks their forgiveness.

Bloch's story is compelling and Freedman's documentary is an affecting study of the effects of racism.

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Film Details

  • Title: Wrong Side of The Bus
  • Directors: Rod Freedman
  • Release Date: August 23, 2011 on DVD
  • Running Time: 56 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Location: Melbourn, Australia and Cape Town, South Africa
  • Language: English
  • Distribution Company: First Run Features
  • Official Website

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