Langston Whitfield is a Washington Post journalist. His editor provocatively sends him to South Africa to cover the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, in which the perpetrators of murder and torture on both sides during Apartheid are invited to come forward and confront their victims. By telling the unvarnished truth and expressing contrition, they may be granted amnesty. Can the deep wounds of Apartheid be healed through reconciliation? Langston is deeply skeptical. He tracks down Colonel De Jager, the most notorious torturer in the South African Police and tries to penetrate the mind of a monster, an experience that obliges him to confront his own demons. Anna Malan is an Afrikaans poet who is covering the hearings for radio. As a white South African, she is shattered by the accounts of the cruelty and depravity committed by her fellow countrymen. Anna and Langston must question their sense of identity. Where do they each belong? How responsible are they for what is done …
User Reviews: I thought this movie did very well in exploring many different relationships and story lines. Above all, this movie asked all of the hard questions and brought into light a lot of truth that a lot of people don’t like to look at.
The African sense of justice is about reconciliation, not revenge. By using the testimonials of several individuals, this movie was very educational. The healing that was allowed to happen within the process of reconciliation was very inspirational. Their sophisticated system made a lot of sense to me, and seems much more advanced than systems employed where i live in the US.
The relationship between Langston and Anna brought a political story to a personal level. It was beautiful to see Anna come to terms with her own sense of responsibility, being a white south African who had known of the atrocities, but had done nothing to stop them. Langston forced her to examine her position, but was also there to support her when she felt crushed by the enormity. Their acting was very convincing and skillful. I especially loved the scene where Anna attacked Langston, but thought the actual sex scene could have been more believable.
One character I haven’t seen anyone comment on is Anna’a assistant, Dumi. This character brought the story to yet another level. He was the classic joker with hidden depths. His character communicated to the audience that nothing is black or white; nothing is simple; really it’s all endlessly complex.
In fact, this story was anything but one-sided. It showed many masks that individuals wear in specific situations. It communicated so much about humanity, both as individuals and as members of a larger society. I find it quite relevant to my experience as a white American who knows my government is responsible for the suffering of multitudes at this moment in time, and I feel responsible and helpless at the same time.
A man who sat behind me in the theater kept telling his girlfriend he wanted to leave because it was unpleasant. Yes, it is unpleasant, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to look at reality. But what I cam away with from the movie was a feeling of awe about humanity’s capacity for compassion.