Out of Africa comes yet another inspiring story – a sporting tale with a difference; to lift you, bring you to tears and finally to leave you with hope in your heart.
Hansie is a film about South African cricketing hero turned villain Hansie Cronje; a strange choice of subject for a feel-good factor movie you might think at first. But stay with it.
Hansie rose to great heights and plummeted to dark depths, but in his despair turned back to the one Rock that had never failed him. And that is what leaves you with such hope in the end despite his tragic death in a plane crash at the tender age of 33, just as he was getting his life back on track.
As it happened, his short lifespan was of the same duration as his Master Jesus which was appropriate in some ways as, like Christ, he too had received much adulation at first. But then he found himself at the centre of a match-fixing scandal that rocked the cricketing world – and all of sporting-mad South Africa for that matter. And although it was largely of his own making in a mad moment of weakness under persistent pressure from Indian betting sharks, the world suddenly turned its back on him as he came to be regarded with scorn and disdain with no-one – apart from his closest friends and his beloved wife Bertha – wanting to know him.
Hansie grew up in Bloemfontein where the fine school he attended – Grey College – saw his potential at a time when much was changing in South Africa where there was a great need for leadership, especially among the ruling Afrikaners whose world was about to be drastically shaken. And Hansie duly emerged a hero, captaining the Proteas cricket team soon after South Africa ’s re-emergence onto the world sporting scene after being banned for over two decades because of apartheid. And he took the team from seventh place in the world rankings right to the top with his inspiring leadership.
But then the match-fixing furore broke; he was accused of taking bribes to throw matches. He did indeed confess to the former but always maintained that he had never thrown a match. Part of what made him such an excellent role model was that he was a devout and outspoken Christian. But this is also what made his fall so dramatic and almost unbelievable… the man of God who sinned so publicly.
However, this is also what makes his story so powerful as, just like the star characters of the Bible (apart from Jesus himself of course), you see him warts and all. Most of the great Bible figures had serious flaws – King David, for example, broke the commandments in a big way by committing adultery and murder. He paid for his sins by losing his first child to Bathsheba (the wife he had ‘stolen’ from her soldier husband, whom he put out of the picture by sending him to the frontline of battle). But he was forgiven and restored and is forever remembered, and revered, as Israel’s greatest king (apart from Jesus) – a man after God’s own heart who wrote some of the most beautiful songs the world has ever known, recorded in the Book of Psalms.
And then there was the Apostle Peter, who had to live with denying Christ in his hour of need, but who emerged as bold as a lion to take his place among the heroes of faith.
Hansie was devastated at having so badly let down all those who had believed in him, but in the end was guided back to a deep faith by his mentor Peter Pollock, a cricketing hero himself in a former generation who experienced a powerful Christian conversion and is now a dedicated preacher of the gospel in much demand, although still involved with the game at this time as Chief of Selectors for the national side.
Hansie chose to get baptised (by immersion) to seal his full return to a life devoted to God – baptism is a picture of identification with the death and resurrection of Jesus with the candidate being buried, as it were, in the water before rising up to new life with Christ. His life on this earth ended abruptly on the mountains of the southern Cape where the plane in which he had ‘hitched’ a lift to his coastal home in the town of George crashed in a violent storm.
The movie doesn’t end on a sad note, however, but on the triumphant tributes at his funeral recounting how he had emerged from the storms of life to rediscover the hope of the gospel which meant that the eternal life he had found in Christ was only just beginning.
Hansie’s great friend Jonty Rhodes, one of the world’s greatest ever fielders who has written a biography of his team-mate, is also featured in the movie, which is available on DVD at Christian bookshops and on web order sites including Amazon. The film stars Frank Rautenbach and Sarah Thompson.
Movie review by Charles Gardner.
photo: ‘Journey Into Grace’ DVD cover – attribution: low resolution picture to illustrate the article only