The novelist, David Gilmour, wrote The Film Club in 2007. It is a memoir of his attempt to ‘educate’ his difficult teenage son by compelling him to watch at least three carefully chosen films each week with his father.
I read the book at a time when one of my sons was going through a bit of a rough patch. (‘Rebellious phase’ is an understatement.) Things came to a head when I tracked him down in a nightclub at 02:00 one morning. It was early in his matric year. The fact that I had stormed, seething, past the bewildered bouncers in my pyjamas and slippers (in full view of his friends) did nothing to improve our somewhat strained relationship.
It was then that I decided to take a leaf out of my Canadian counterpart’s book. And so it came to pass that the Grobbelaar Film Club was born. It was an enterprise that brought wonderful dividends.
We watched many films that year. I introduced him to Paul Newman and Robert Redford. After The Sting and Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, we also watched The Hustler and The Natural. Also Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. (“You’ve gotta ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”) We watched Pacino in Scarface and Dog Day Afternoon. There was Deliverance. Easy Rider. Apocalypse Now. Into The Wild.
But all good things come to an end. And when he left Bloem after school, the Grobbelaar Film Club faded into memory. Until a few weeks ago when I suddenly, out of the blue, had a call from Beira, Mozambique, where he’s now working.
“Pa,” he said, “let’s revive the film club.” And that’s what we did. On a given night we would both pause our recordings at the same frame in the opening scene, and at exactly the same moment press the play buttons. Perfectly co-ordinated. Father and son watching together, two thousand kilometres apart.
We chose Casablanca for the relaunch. (Now, at 25, he’s hopefully ready for those nightclub scenes.)
Here’s looking at you, kid.