“There is that bubbling undercurrent exploding in different ways,” he added, saying that while filming in South Africa he saw communities losing faith with local law enforcement and taking justice into their own hands. This mirrors very closely the denouement of the film, where Ali is gripped by thirst for revenge and bloody personal justice.
In preparation for the role, “I was dealing with officers, and people in the community were saying: “They’re not listening to us. They’re not helping us. They’re allowing people to do these horrible things in our neighborhood. We have to take charge. We are the elders of this community, and we are not going to allow certain things to happen.”
“And where does all that come from? Where is the pain that brings out these things? I think that’s what’s going to have to be addressed,” he said.
Conrad Kemp, the film’s only South African actor, said vigilante justice is widespread in the country, and linked to people thinking that regular justice is simply failing them.
For Whitaker, however, the real picture is not as bleak as the film might make out. He said slow, apartheid-related forgiveness is occurring.
It’s related to the history of colonialization — “those issues which have to do partly with forgiveness and being able to move forward,” the actor said.
“It is slow … (but) the continent is full of potentiality, it’s growing, it’s changing, it’s moving.”