Movies often provide us with some form of escape and relief. The true story of Beyond the River though challenges us straight back into the messy world we so easily want to leave behind.
The movie is a story about two men who would probably never have met had it not been for their common passion for canoeing and desire to win the Dusi Canoe Marathon. The opening scenes introduce us to the main characters Steve and Duma. Steve is a teacher living in the upper class suburbs of Johannesburg and a 14-time Dusi participant with 10 gold medals behind his name. Whilst Duma, who lives in Soweto, use to canoe in his younger days but has since made a series of bad decisions following a life changing tragedy and is now in a hopeless cycle of survival. The great divide that exists within South Africa between the privileged and those less fortunate is at the heart of the friendship that develops between these two.
THE GREAT DIVIDE
For many young people, just like Duma, who grow up in the lower-income bracket of our society there is not much opportunity afforded them. Duma has a teenage sister and all he wants to do is buy his sister a new pair of school shoes. For many of our youth this is their reality. There is this generation of teens, facing life issues that they have no control of and shouldn’t have to face at their age. For Duma and his family, it would seem that the simple solution to this poverty problem is money, and more of it. Is money all there is to it though?
Steve in contrast to Duma, has money. He is not living in poverty, yet he is not happy. He too has faced tragedy, which has resulted in a shaky relationship with his wife. Here money is definitely not the answer. Steve needs peace; he needs to let go of a few things.
A CHANGE IN PERSPECTIVE
Perspective; a particular attitude towards something, a way of regarding something, a point of view.
For both men in this film, their perspective needed to change in order for things to be different going forward. For Duma, he needed to see that there was more to life than just the hand he was dealt. For Steve, he needed to see the way Duma lived so that he could realise that although he had lost so much, he still had much for which to be thankful.
The movie speaks to so much that is currently happening in South Africa – racial tension, white privilege, issues of poverty, tragic loss of life. It is easy to be bogged down with hopelessness and often times I am left with the question of “what can we do about all this?” I certainly don’t have all the answers, but the following thoughts played through my mind after seeing Beyond the River:
Tragedy can help us gain perspective
Hard times can help us see what’s really important in life, it gives us perspective on things. It often forces us to re-look at things and see if our perspective needs to change. Do we need to do things differently from this point on; are we focussing on things we shouldn’t be focussing on; are there some things we need to let go of to move forward. What does it mean to have a Kingdom perspective?
There is a real gap
The gap between the rich and poor is a reality for us South Africans and cannot be left for a few to solve. How do we close this gap? Prayer yes. However, we also all need to be making a personal practical effort to correct this injustice.
Teamwork makes the dream work
Cliché right but true. There is no “I” in team – together we achieve much more than going at things on our own. How can we stand together as a nation to tackle and overcome many of the challenges we face? What are the things we need to set aside for teamwork to make the South African dream work?
Beyond the River is a heart-warming, inspirational story that is a great conversation starter around real important issues for any family or youth group. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.