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‘Panic’ attacks S. Africa B.O., eclipses ‘Day’

JOHANNESBURG – The computer-generated aliens who helped “Independence Day” gross more than $440 million internationally have been shoved aside here by good old-fashioned humans and a warts-and-all portrayal of life in post-Apartheid South Africa.

“Panic Mechanic” tackles issues such as crime and violence, affirmative action, and racial and political prejudices, and was directed by Leon Schuster, South Africa’s most successful filmmaker since Jamie Uys (“The Gods Must Be Crazy”).

The movie, released for the Christmas season, has had audiences doubled up laughing at themselves. In its first two weeks, “Panic” grossed 7.717 million rand ($1.6 million), outdoing “Independence Day,” which established a South African box office record by taking in 7.039 million rand ($1.504 million) in its first two weeks.

“Panic” is a farce that uses “Candid Camera”-style cameos to portray white Afrikaners’ state of mind after losing power to Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in the historic all-race elections in 1994.

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