Rejecting vengeance in favor of an almost unimaginable well of forgiveness, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission marked an extraordinary reckoning with South Africa’s blighted recent past: Those guilty of violent acts during the apartheid era could seek amnesty if they confessed their crimes truthfully, expressed contrition, and could show they were following orders issued from above. John Boorman’s schematic treatment of the hearings, in which victims and perpetrators came face to face, centers on Anna (Juliette Binoche), a white Afrikaner poet covering the commission for radio, and Langston (Samuel L. Jackson), an African American reporter for The Washington Post. That’s right, one of the first fiction features on Truth and Reconciliation doesn’t bother to recruit a rep for black South Africans—unless you count Anna’s ever cheerful sound engineer or a bunch of anonymous grieving mothers—and prefers to stand by and watch as guilt-ridden Anna and righteous Langston fight and fuck their way across the cultural divide. Boorman’s bathetic tourism is unconscionable for a subject of this magnitude; for an infinitely superior account of this chapter of South African history, seek out the documentary Long Night’s Journey Into Day.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 1, 2005