Power Punch

Hot on the heels of his "Rocky V," director John Avildsen is preparing to jump back into the ring. But this time, heavy themes accompany the heavy punches. The central character of "The Power of One" lives in South Africa, circa 1950, when the country is in transition from an English colony to an Afrikaner state.

"The story takes place as the curtain of apartheid is descending," says screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen, who previously teamed with director Avildsen for the three "Karate Kid" titles. "Quite against his will, our character finds himself caught up in a collision of cultures."

Of English descent, the white teen-age welterweight defies convention by living and working in a black township, aligning himself with a young Zulu fighter--and romancing a young Afrikaner girl, whose father is one of the architects of apartheid.

Adapted from the 1989 novel by Bryce Courtenay, "The Power of One" will begin filming for Warner Bros. in March on location in Zimbabwe. Casting is under way in London, New York, Los Angeles and Johannesburg. Arnon Milchan is executive producer, with John Tarnoff, Steve Reuther and Avildsen producing. The budget is in the $18-to-$20-million range.

Kamen insists that this isn't another film about the black struggle as seen through a white man's eyes.

"He doesn't bring the white experience to it all. He's led and influenced by them . The black experience dictates what happens to him. He becomes caught up in the myths of Africa.

"This isn't a movie with a lot of political diatribe. It's about feelings."

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