Escape from Pretoria (2020) Script

By the time Stephen and I graduated in '73, half of South Africa was in flames.

The police were shooting black kids like rabbits whilst the other half sipped piña coladas on their whites-only beaches.

Growing up under apartheid meant the segregation of people by the colour of their skin.

And as our eyes opened, the naked reality of apartheid stood before us.

I was born like this!

I'm not ashamed to be a Saffer. Ask in the eyes of God!

What we'd always accepted, we would now reject.

We didn't want a life built on lies and indifference.

We wanted to join the ongoing struggle for a democratic and free South Africa not based on racial discrimination.

But unless we got up from our privileged white lives and did something, our words were meaningless.

What we chose to do was the most radical of all things and without doubt the most explosive.

We joined the prohibited African National Congress...

and ran anti-apartheid missions alongside our black and Asian brothers and sisters, spreading the news that freedom and equality for all races should be fought for at all costs.

Let's go! - Aren't we going to watch?

No, Stephen, we don't have time for this, OK?

Let's just...

They're closing in on us.

Hey, you! Stay where you are!

And the costs were greater than either of us imagined.

I've got you the money. Don't let them catch you with it.

They will add another 12 years to your life.

Make sure you don't appeal. - I won't.

I'm not begging some fascist bastard judge to come take pity on us.

Give it to me.

Whatever happens in there, don't give up.

I won't.

Go, go, go. I love you.


All rise.

The Republic of South Africa v. Timothy Jenkin and Stephen Lee.

My commendation to the prosecution.

A very well put case.

The retrieval of 17 custom-built devices for 26 separate bombings is no small thing.

But laying out the most pernicious aspects of this ANC ideology... that all races are equal and all this sort of thing has been the strongest part of your case.

And if I'm to understand it correctly, one of the defendants' fathers is an eminent pharmacologist and the other a scholar in the humanities.

This country raised you.

It gave birth to you and it provided all your worldly needs.

And this is how you choose to repay it?

The State of South Africa now tells you the price you will pay in return.

And so, defendant number one and chief bomb maker, Timothy Jenkin, you are sentenced to imprisonment for a total of 12 years.

And defendant number two, the accomplice, Stephen Lee, you are sentenced to imprisonment for a total of eight years.

Sentences are to commence at Pretoria Political Prison for White Males.

So... that's that.

All rise.

Sit there!

Shit! Don't shoot! Don't shoot!

Let's talk about this, man, alright?

Let's talk. Let me esca...

Keep your mouth shut in there!


How's it? - How's it?

At last, the leaflet bombers are here, hmm?

And after all your fancy tricks, you're reduced to jumping from windows like rats, huh?


No-one forced you to traitor your country and your race!

You are the white Mandela.

You are the most deluded of them all.

Van der Merwe!

Read it!

"No pens, no radio, no newspapers.

"No political conversation.

"No parcels larger than the size of a 6" x 4" envelope.

"Visitors once per month, subject to state vetting.

"And there is to be no sexual activity of any kind"

"anywhere on the premises."

Here! Step on the line.

Step over the line.

Disengage the grille door.


Up to the line.



Come on, move!






Alright, pube lice!

Lights out 11:00, morning bell 5:00, breakfast 7:30.

I like my cells clean as a plate.

Remember that and you'll live a long and prosperous life.

Now... total silence!

Step away from the grille.

Best bloody kip in years.

I could get used to this.

Fall out!


Go. Walk. Walk!

Alright, guys, move along. Move along.

Alright, quieten down. Let's keep it down, guys.

Walk. Walk.

Go on.


Thank you.

Don't sit there.

We are segregated, my friend.

They wear blue shirts for a reason.

Unless you want to sit next to a murderer.

No. This is... this is good.


Alright, quiet down, huh?

What was that?

Can I join you, gentlemen?

Can I...? - Please.

We've heard about you two.

We've heard about you. - Yeah. It's... it's an honour.

How many years?

Eight for me. 12 for him.

Ja, but we don't plan on staying that long.

Hold on to that anger.

It reminds you there's another world outside all this.

Nobody said stop. Move!

Calm down, now.

Oh, dear. Oh, dear.

Ladies, we're going to call this one Potluck.

One for each slop, my friend.

Damned bastards!

Come on. Get it over there.

Good boy.

Something's weighing you down, I think.

Are you packing?

You can tell by the way you run you've got at least a bottle of beer and some glasses up there.

Cigar tubes. 360 rand.

Expensive tastes.

Let me give you the guided tour.

In case you're wondering, it's 20 foot high.

The barbed wire's flailed so it traps right under your skin.

Searchlights. On from sundown to sunrise.

Covers every inch of the yard.

Boers with guns from lockup till dawn.

There's nothing they'd like more than to pump holes into you.

And tunnels in any direction, they just lead you back onto prison property.

Apart from that wall. It lines a public street.

I knew a chap one time.

No matter how hard he tried, he couldn't get his money out.

And the whole thing got infected.

The point I'm making is, everybody comes in here going they're gonna break out of here by next week.

We are prisoners of conscience.

So it's different for us.

But we're prisoners of war.

All the same, I've got a hiding place.

I'll keep it safe for you.

Get it out before it rots you inside.

He pours cold water on any poor bastard with a plan.

I don't talk to him.

So there have been attempts?

Some go a little...

some a little more, but no-one go out.

Always a first time.

That's my thoughts exactly.

It is a duty for us.

I don't do this "prisoner of conscience" bullshit.

If you're having a plan, I join you.


The cell is a concrete tomb.

Only way out is through the grille.

You tell me when you have something.

Back to your cells!

Every prison has its doyen, and for us politicals it was Denis Goldberg.

He'd been given four life sentences for trying to overthrow the apartheid government by violent revolution... in the same trial as Mandela and Sisulu.

He was royalty.

For many nights, I sat on my bed and stared at the lock.

I tried a hundred ideas in my mind... and then I tried a hundred more.

It sat there staring back at me every single night.

And then it dawned on me.

You don't have to know everything.

You only have to know enough.

Now, quiet!

You start with what you know and you work backwards.

Hey. We've got something.

We're not doing anything that involves digging.

No. We make keys.


Wait, wait. Listen.

I measured the lock with a pencil and drawing paper...

You want to make a key with pencil and drawing paper?

No, no. From wood.

Oh. You crazy. It break.

It won't break if you go against the grain.

There's a reason keys are made out of metal.

I thought there was a first for everything.


Where you get the wood from?

From the workshop. - Heads up. Heads up.

Three minutes.

Move along, you guys.


Look at the keys when he comes over.

Watch closely.

No, no, no! You have lost your mind!

What are you talking about?!

What is this? - Oh, nothing, meneer.

No fighting. We're just talking.

Not much peace and harmony among you white Mandelas, huh?


Kaffir work.

You're both confined to your cell. Now!

It's ridiculous.

Are you guys gonna clean it up?

Mongo here's gonna look after you, eh?

He didn't do anything.

You want to play with him? Ja?

Then play still!

Potluck! Get your black, fat arse here now!


Alright, guys, move along.

Quiet! Quieten down!

Be quiet!

You clean that up!

Next! Move it along!

Next in line!

OK, next prisoner! Come on, move it!

OK, next!

Clear down!

Oh, shit!

What an idiot.


Just Lee.

Everybody else clear down.

File in!


You know, your look is very intense, Jenkin.


"Sorry, MENEER."

Sorry sir.


So all we have to do is make a really complex key...


Is make a really complex key, then get it to reach a keyhole on the other side of a steel-panel, three-inch-thick iron door to which we have totally no access?

Total crazy.

I love it.

Ah, yes!

Yes, yes!


Nerd! Do not!

Team. Tim, Tim, Tim, Tim!

Somebody's coming. Quick!

No, no. Come on, come out. Come out. Get out.

Team! Team!

Come on!

I punched a boy at school.


Because he called me a bastard and he said I don't have a Papa... but that's not true.

I'm sorry.

What have I done?

Are you angry with me Papa?

No. No.

I'm not angry at all.

This is my best day in the whole year... seeing you.

Mum says when they let you go, I'm going to have a beard and be 23 years old.

Is that true?

I promise you...

I won't be here much longer.

Back off!

What's the matter with you? You are scaring him!

Play still and lean away, or I cut the children.

What is wrong with you people?!

OK. This session is terminated. Get the woman in here.

OK. OK, I'm s... I'm sorry.

Get him out of here. This session's over.

Come Antoine!

Please. This is less than 30 minutes. Please. Please.

No, please! Please! - Come on, Anthony. Quickly.

What's happening with her visa?

They rejected it again. We're going to appeal.

Finished! It's finished! - Is she well?

Is she well? How is she?

She wishes you "happy fifth wedding anniversary".

Enough of this French shit. Get out! Now! Out!

She's moving to Bordeaux.

I'm sorry.

Papa! - I'm sorry, Leonard.

Papa! - Stop shouting.

Pope! Pope!

Get your...! Hey! Hey!

17. Go!

15 seconds.

How, uh... how is your son?

OK. Let's go again.


He had a bad visit. - Ja, I heard.

And you? How is your father doing?

I don't know.

He's sick.

We need to get out of here.

I think I have an idea.

Antoine, he made me a kite.

It has a small spindle of fine black thread on it.

I can tie the key at both ends, put it across.

And There you go.

I liked the pulley idea.


No. - What?

If you can't turn it, it's... just totally pointless.

Totally pointless?


Well, what can take us from this to this?

That we have access to from inside the cell.


You see, that's why the string is smart.

We can keep it here and they'll never work out...

Afternoon, meneer.

What were you talking about?

Nothing, meneer. We were just talking.

Yeah. - Sweeping, yeah?

Clean cell, clean heart, meneer.


OK, he's gone. - How long was he there for?

Did he hear us? Did he hear anything?

We weren't saying anything incriminating.

OK. OK, if he ask question of us, we were just talking about... we talk about string, huh?

For how we hang up the broom. Huh? That's it.

We forget everything else. - Wait, wait, wait.

Oh, yeah, yeah. Give it to me.

He has.

Oh, yes.



You get it?

Not quite. - Any more?

Oh, no.






I have not slept all night.

But you did it?

Mm-hm. Both doors. - Really?

You actually opened... both the doors?

Ja. I actually did.

Very well.


Nice work.

Hey, we're not going to be able to see it flower.

That's the street outside.

What the hell is that noise?

Heads up.



What was he doing here?

Uh, he was fetching my yard waste, meneer.

Yeah, I saw that, cheese dick. He's not on garden duty.

Why is he collecting from you? Why not him?

From now on... you clean up your own shit.

And, meneer.

The captain has ordered a crackdown.

That's why they're all so spooked.

So, before you do whatever it is you're doing, make sure you can get clear of those snipers.

Ja. We're figuring it out. - Yes, well, figure carefully.

You fail, you'll get 25 years if you're lucky.

A bullet in the head if you're not.

The sniper on that gun walk is a complete psychopath.

I heard he shot some kids in Joburg and they posted him here to cool down.

I'll keep looking out for you.

But your whole plan is doomed to failure.

One of these mornings, I hope you're going to wake up and see it.

You're young. And I like you.

But you're part of a movement now.

What you do affects everyone.

Ja, so help us.

But if we can unlock three doors, we can unlock 20...

You don't even know how many there are.

It doesn't matter if it's 100.

If they've got a lock, we can make a key.

Well, what about the street outside?

We need civilian clothes. Other stuff. Quarters nearby.

How do we get out of the country?

We are working on it. One step at a time.

There's too many unknowns!

And we'll figure them out. Be patient.

You need to have patience with us.

Take patience from the others. I'm not giving.

20 years, I've been in here!

And once a year, they give me 30 minutes.

30 minutes. Alone with my own son.

They try to break us.

No more patience.

We fight back!

He's erratic.

He's made a choice. What about you?

Are you... - Alright, listen!

We are all on the same side.

In prison, nothing stays the same, and yet nothing changes.

The routine is the only thing that gives time any meaning.

So you use it.

You use everything.

You find the cracks in their armour and you exploit them to the fullest extent day after day after day.

And through those cracks, in the uneventful footnotes of prison life... victory is won.

That's how you beat the fascists - one act of resistance after another.

Kitson. - How's it?

Are you still in charge of the movie closet?

I'm going there tonight.

When do they let you have the key?

Your order.


Ja, I can see clearly now.

Little prick.

Ah! Potluck.

That black little rat you used to hang out with.

Got stretched three days ago.

I hear they had to winch him up twice.

Twitching and frothing in his noose.

Armed robbery, and he gets a free education and statutory funeral.

More than his worthless natives could ever give to him, huh?

Enjoy your glasses.

I won't give up.

♪ Dies

♪ Dies in

♪ will dissolve into ashes

♪ Tests David as Sybilla

How great will be ♪ When the judge comes ♪

♪ things relentlessly

♪ day, day of

♪ will dissolve into ashes

♪ Tests David as Sybilla How great will be ♪ When the judge comes ♪

♪ things relentlessly

♪ day, day of

♪ will dissolve into ashes

♪ Tests David as Sybilla How great will be ♪ When the judge comes ♪

♪ things relentlessly How great will be ♪

♪ day, day of How great will be ♪

♪ day, day of How great will be ♪ How great will be ♪ When the judge comes ♪

♪ things relentlessly

♪ things strictly things relentlessly

♪ Strict discussurus

♪ things strictly things relentlessly

♪ Strict discussurus.

Come on, come on. Get in, quick.

No no no!


We try it. - Ja, ja. OK, OK.

Careful it doesn't break.

That's enough. That's enough. - Wait. Wait!

That's enough. Come on. Come on.

Oh, for crying out loud!

Leave it. Leave it. Come on.

Come on. Come on, come on!


Stand outside your cell.

Are you sick, Jenkin?

No, Captain.

You have some sort of auditory problem?

Some infection or something?

No, Captain.


So the bell rang and you heard it.

Why didn't you wake up?

I'm sorry, Captain.

Oh, you're sorry? Oh, well, that's touched my heart.

Let me tell you something.

When you hear the lunchtime bell go this afternoon and you hear the suppertime bell go this evening, you will remain in your cell and I'm not going to give you any food.

How does that sound, hmm?

I'm... I'm terribly sorry, Captain.

Oh, terribly sorry now, is it?

You joined a terrorist gang of dirty black Rottweilers and they chewed you up and they spat you out and now you're stuck in here with me! Hmm?

And 20 years' experience in this job tells me you slept through my bed because you're tired, and you're tired because you're not sleeping, hmm?

Why aren't you sleeping?

I asked you a question.

I-I'm sorry, Captain.

Oh, "I'm sorry, Captain." Hmm.

"I'm sorry, Captain."

No, no, no, no. I can smell it.

I'm sorry, Capt...

Don't you ever sleep through my bell again!

Did you hear me that time, Jenkin?

Ja, Captain. - Mmm. That's good.

OK, now, go and stand outside. Go on. Go on.

No, stand there.

Look at me when I'm talking to you.

Please. It's my son.

Look at me when I'm talking to you! Stand there!

Please... - Don't bloody move!

Please. It's of my son.

I am allowed to have a picture. It's of my son.

No. No. No. No, no, no, don't...

Don't you touch them!

Do not touch me! - On your knees, man!

No, no! No! - Just shut up!

They're mine! They're mine!

They are mine!

They are mine! You fascists!

Fascists! They are mine, you fascists!

Don't touch them! They are mine!

They are mine! They are mine!

Don't you do it! Don't you do it! They are mine!

They are mine! - Shut up!

They are mine! They are mine!

No more of this dog shit in here either! Huh?

Hey! Jenkin! Here!

They are mine! They are mine!

No more of that dog shit. Is that clear?

And, Captain.


I'll never understand why you people surround yourself with these stupid little pictures.

And you missed a visit, I hear. Is that right?

Ja, Captain. Illness.

Oh, so, that's what they tell you?


What is this?


It's... it's... it's for... um, photographs, Captain.

What an utterly stupid idea.

Yeah, you are quite the little housewife, aren't you? Hey?


There is something.

There is something, and I will find it.

Now, you clean all of that rubbish up.

Huh? Another one?

Alright, let's go.

I buried my nerves as deep as I possibly could.

But what stays in must come out.

And the nightly panic attacks grew more vicious as the days went on.

And yet each obstacle presented new ways of seeing things.

So the entire prison became a hiding ground.


Cracks in the wall.

Laundry buckets filled with soap powder.

These became agents of freedom.

And when one door closed, another one opened.

Many of them with keys that I had made.

Freedom is a very simple idea.

Which is perhaps why it can be so easily lost.


There's some decay here.

Arggh! It's when you touch the back.

He'll have to come to my surgery. It needs to come out.

Not again, dammit!


Loggie! The electric door!

We're standing here!

Loggie! Open the grille door! Push the button!

Open the damn door! Loggie! Wake up!

Oh! Well done!



Oh, shit! Get on your feet, man!

Over the past several months, we've created 39 keys for 15 separate doors around this prison.

We've moved from our cells to the corridor to downstairs and into the admin section

404 days without detection.

We want to share this with you.

Why won't you come?

You said it yourself. They're building a gun tower outside.

It's not operational yet. - You think.

Listen, running around fiddling with cupboards and surviving out there are two very different things.

We're not going with you because there's nowhere to go.

We can go to Mozambique and from there to Tanzania.

You're not listening to us.

I've had enough of listening to you.

Hey! You show some respect! - Why?

Alright, that's enough! I suggest that from now...

And you, we all know your decision to fly your flag from behind your prison bars.

We don't agree. - We should turn and follow you now?

Follow your conscience. - Are you my conscience?

Yeah. If we have to be.

Anything short of escape is a pact with the devil himself.

You know that!

One by one, this government is hacking everything we stand for to pieces, and our inactivity is complicity!

Every day we sit here, we justify this regime.

But maybe all you white South Africans are the same, huh?

You're all talk. No action.

Hey, alright! Alright!

Disrespectful son of a bitch!

Remember who you're talking to, boy!

I know exactly who I'm talking to.

Oh, is that right? - Yes, it is!

No action? You tell that bullshit to Mandela! Or Sisulu!

Or any of us at Rivonia! We did everything we could in '64!

I for one am proud to stand by my brothers on Robben Island!

Arrested together, sentenced together, and if we have to, we will die together.

This is bullshit!

They would escape, all of them!

Only they can't, because they don't have this weapon, which we do.

What we do have is our unity.

As it is, they will interrogate us, perhaps torture us for months, even years in here because of you.

So come with us.

If you want to double your sentence, go, but we are not coming with you, not now.

And don't you dare presume to come to my country and tell me how things are!

I've been in prison since before you knew what apartheid was!

I too have had to watch my children grow up through that little prison visitor window.

I'm 15 years into a four-life sentence.

It doesn't get any easier.

But a seed has to rot in the ground before you can enjoy the fruits of its tree.

That is the price we have to pay, all of us.

Rather than running away. - We're not running away.

Then stay. Fight. - This is how we fight.

We can all go tonight.

And when you're caught?

When we're caught... you can come back from the dead for those brothers that you are talking about.

But you won't do it.

I think you'll look back at this moment and you'll regret this decision for the rest of your lives.

Come on. We tried.

Merry Christmas.

And to you.



I think it's too late to stop your vrot black teeth falling out, huh?

Or it's more kak to trade with those black gorillas.

Get them out! Now!

Alright, Tooth Fairy. Out!

Get out of my cell. Get out!


I'm wasting my time in here! Boy, I promise you!

Oh, thank God!



Crying like a little girl.

Good luck, you guys.

It's not too late to come.

Make damn sure you get clear. You hear me?

Come on, come on, come on.



How can they find anything in here?


What's this?

Go. Go, go. Go.

Where's the paperclip? The paperclip?

Where is it? - It must be here.

Just bloody pull it!

Meneer! Meneer! I'm calling you!

Sir! Sir!


Sir! Sir!

Alright, alright! Enough!

Stop. - What?

I need to go back. I need to go back.

Why? - For the buzzer.

The buzzer for the electric door.



Come on!

Come on, come on, come, come.


Come on, come on, come on.

OK. Go.

OK. Workshop key.

Round tip.

Just the workshop key.

Visitor's room. It's a round tip.

No, it's not. That's not what we need right now.

It's a round tip. - Guys! Just try them both.



Thank you.

It's OK. Go on, go on, go on.

Get out the way.


Come on, come on. Come, come.

You have to push it all the way in, mon ami.

The gates are wide open.

You can see the street.

Oh, we made it.

My God.

I'll never forget this moment.

OK. - OK. OK.

OK. Next.



You push it all the way in? - Yes!

Yes, I'm pushing it all the way in.

Just give me another one.

I'm out.

That's the last one we have.

What are we going to do? - Well... we have to go back.

Back? I'd rather be shot.

Well, we don't have any other choice!

Hey, guys, just wait. OK, wait.

Ja, maybe.

What? - Chisel.

What's going on? What are you doing?


No! No! Stop! Stop!


This is gonna get us caught!

And they're gonna know that we did it!

Screwdriver. I need to get in deeper.

You can hear it in the bloody corridor!

Time to have a look.

See? It's coming.

It's getting close.

Ja. OK, ja. Give me the screwdriver.

Come on, keep going.

Hold. Hold. Hold.

Alright, alright. That's enough. That's enough.


OK. Let's go.


Yes, yes. - OK.

OK. No, no, no. Wait, wait.


OK. Let's go.

OK. Guys, I just want to tell you, there's no...

Tim, just open the damn door!

No! No! Wait! No!



Oh, man. - Let me see.

OK, he's going...

he's going...

Go. Go. Go.

The map. Give me the map.


Go. Go.

Alright. Alright. - Go. Come on.

Uh... three to Joburg.

The white rank is that way.

No. Uh, this... this rank is fine.

No, that's fine.

Come on, come on, come on.


The lock's not working anymore.

Ja. Tell me about it.

Come on.

Get in. Get in.

Rise and shine, ladies!

Up you get, girls!

Good morning, Grandad. - Good morning, meneer.

Up! - Good morning, meneer.


Hey! Get up!


Oh, shit! Oh, shit!



Sound the alarm. Sound the alarm!

Oh, my...

We did it!

We did.