Action Kommandant is the untold story of slain South African liberation fighter, Ashley Kriel.
During the oppressive apartheid era Ashley was known as the Ché Guevara of Cape Town’s notorious ‘Cape Flats’. He was born into a single-mother, working class family in Bonteheuwel and grew to become the symbol of 1980s youth resistance.
Ashley’s story is told through pockets of memory opened by those who were closest to him. A wound unmended is explored through these intimate interviews.
The film opens with the voice of Ashley’s mother, Ivy Kriel. This audio interview travels with us throughout the film as it introduces various chapters of Ashley’s life. It serves to humanize the Ashley that has become such an icon. Ivy Kriel worked as a tea girl at a factory and her only son’s involvement in anti-apartheid movements was not something she welcomed immediately.
At 13 years old Ashley organized a protest march around his primary school before he had joined any political organization. His close friend, Gavin Adams, speaks about how they were cool cats and started a street gang called GAP. The GAP brothers joined the Bonteheuwel Youth Movement (BYM) where Quentin Michels was the chairperson. It was here that Ashley was introduced to ideologies of the then banned African National Congress.
The film traces this guerrilla soldier’s development from being a member of the progressive BYM through to addressing crowds on public platforms. Ashley’s popularity grew to such an extent that it became increasingly riskier for him be an underground operative of the ANC in the Western Cape.
How did Ashley go into exile? What happened to him in the Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) camps? What were his MK duties when he arrived back in Cape Town? Will we ever find the truth about his death?
Ashley Kriel contributed to revolutionizing working class youth. The film shows never seen before footage of Ashley’s funeral and explores the Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigation of his murder. In a haunting last recording of his voice he sings: ‘Don’t mourn for me, organize’.