The documentary Long Nights Journey into Day is a heart-rending film that describes the healing process after the wrath of the apartheid regime. The documentary depicts a beautiful and disturbing reflection of the nature of the truth and forgiveness. The directors of the film, Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffmann describes how the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was used in healing the nation by giving people a chance to open up to their sins during the apartheid regime. The function of the committee after the fall of the Apartheid was to look into the crimes committed and determine the people who would be legible for amnesty.
As noted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the process was not about attacking and ridiculing the culprits. However, its primary objective was to determine the truth, to establish the causes of the ruthless killings and to determine how the country would move on from Apartheid regime. The process attracted many people who were ready to confess their sins to be granted amnesty. According to the information shown on the screen at the beginning of the movie, a total of 7000 people sought for amnesty. However, the documentary only focuses on four stories.
The structure of the movie is simple and direct since it is basically composed of hearings and display of images of crimes that were committed during the Apartheid regime. The filmmakers start with a case that is widely known by many, that of Amy Biehl, an America student and rights advocate. She was murdered by black South Africans yet her role in the country was not related in any way with the whites who discriminate the blacks. She was actually attracted by the work of Nelson Mandela in South Africa thus her death was very tragic; a victim of resentment that should have never been directed to her.
The film describes how the hearings were held in front of a crowd and televised so that everyone could listen to the contrition of the accused. The process was very painful since it brought the parents of Biehl and her killer together. The approval of amnesty to the convicted killer of their daughter did not augur well with them since they wanted full justice for their daughter. Her mother was evidently full of rage during the hearing as portrayed in the video. She was so heartbroken such that the process could not buy her a moment of peace.
As noted by the directors of this film, the drama in this story is very potent hence it does not require any icing. The movie takes a different swift when another applicant, Robert McBride who was convicted of bombing three whites talk about how he experienced hardship as a Blackman. He argues that his actions were motivated by the conditions and frustrations that he had been subjected to by the whites. He also talks about the crude gradations of dehumanization that were accepted in South Africa. Unfortunately, he claimed that he had served a long time in prison as compared to the time spent by apartheid ministers in prison. Each story sends a resounding jolt of hurt in one's nervous system, with the jolt growing more intensive as each episode is covered. The saddest story is the last one that reports about seven terrorists that were shot by the police. The story also entails video scenes of the corpses being brutally jerked by rope across the bloody asphalt. The mothers of the victims break into tears when the tape is run. The biggest shock is the revelation that the secret police recruited and trained angry young black men and eventually killed them.
The documentary offers its own definition of justice. The process is not totally curative since justice cannot be delivered in this circumstances. The film indicates that the ache of racism and its brutal aftermath still remain. However, it covers it with much integrity as shown in the efforts of the committee.
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