Long Night’s Journey Into Day
dir Deborah Hoffmann, Frances Reid
with Desmond Tutu, Mary Burton, Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela, Jann Turner, Tony Weaver, Glenda Wildschut, Helen Mirren
release St Louis Film Fest Nov.00
awards Grand Jury Prize--Sundance 00; Interfaith Award--St Louis 00; Peace Film Award--Berlin 00; Ecumenical Award--Karlovy Vary 00
00/US 1h35 5 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
Seeking truth and reconciliation. Guguletu township near Cape Town, where seven young men were brutally killed by police in 1986.
This is much, much more than a documentary about the end of apartheid in South Africa. It's a seriously powerful film about the difficult path to reconciliation. It should be mandatory viewing for everyone ... everywhere.

Documentarians Hoffmann and Reid focus their attention on four stories from South Africa's Truth & Reconciliation Commission, which is trying to heal the wounds of one of the most viciously racist regimes in history. The first story is about the 1993 killing of an American student during a riot in Cape Town. Next is an examination of the 1985 disappearance and murder of two teachers and their friends by South African security forces. Third is a 1996 guerilla bombing in Durban in which three white women died. And finally we return to Cape Town for an investigation into a complex 1986 shootout where local police killed seven young men.

In each story, the emotion rises immediately to the surface, not because of any manipulation on behalf of the filmmakers, but because of the jolting strength of the stories and the people involved in them. Especially as the killers confront the families of their victims. This is one of those rare documentaries that never tells you what to think--it simply presents the facts, carefully and coherently assembled, and lets the information work its way into your heart. The images and situations captured on camera are truly remarkable, demonstrating vividly Desmond Tutu's comment that "there's a difference between retributive and restorative justice" ... and there can be no true reconciliation until the truth is confronted, even if it means going through the pain of anger and bitterness to get there. Quite simply, this is one of the most devastating, life-affirming films you'll ever see.

[strong themes, violence] 5.Nov.00

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Obinna Nsoedo, net: "VERY,VERY GOOD MOVIE, just shows the extent of struggle for freedom + reconciliation afterwards. Why is this oscar nominated documentary not commercially available in the uk?" (1.Mar.05)

© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall