African Media Program
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Long Night's Journey Into Day (2000)

Director: Deborah Hoffmann, Frances Reid. Production Co. Reid-Hoffmann Productions. Production Country: South Africa, USA.
Format: DVD, VHS/NTSC. 94 minutes. Color

Distributor Descriptions: For over forty years, South Africa was governed by the most notorious form of racial domination since Nazi Germany. When it finally collapsed, those who had enforced apartheid's rule wanted amnesty for their crimes. Their victims wanted justice. As a compromise, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was formed. As it investigated the crimes of apartheid, the Commission brought together victims and perpetrators to relive South Africa's brutal history. By revealing the past instead of burying it, the TRC hoped to pave the way to a peaceful future. Long Night's Journey Into Day follows several TRC cases over a two-year period. The stories in the film underscore the universal themes of conflict, forgiveness, and renewal. A white special forces officer, struggles to reach peace with the embittered wife of a black activist he killed 14 years before. A group of mothers, after enduring years of misinformation and denials by the authorities, learn the truth about how their sons were set up, betrayed and killed in a vicious police conspiracy. A liberation movement combatant who blew up a bar frequented by the security police expresses his remorse about the civilians killed, but the sister of a victim remains doubtful. A young black activist comes to recognize the anguish he caused by killing a white American student during a mob riot, while her parents see past their pain to embrace a new multi-racial South Africa. As it emerges from its tragedy, South Africa is showing the rest of the world that even the most bitter of conflicts can be addressed through honesty and communication. Long Night's Journey Into Day provides the definitive record of one of the most ambitious and innovative attempts at social reconciliation without precedent in human history. ============================================================================================ Long Night's Journey into Day follows several Truth and Reconciliation Cases over a two-year period, underscoring universal themes of conflict, forgiveness and renewal. They concern the black killers of US student Amy Biehl; the police officers who abducted and murdered the Cradock Four; the ANC fighters who bombed a bar in Durban one Saturday night; and the undercover agents who assassinated the Gugulethu Seven. The testimonies of perpetrators and relatives of the dead - to the commission and to camera - bear witness to the social and emotional fractures caused by Apartheid, but it's the healing process that is mesmerizing. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and nominated for an Academy Award, the film has won numerous prizes worldwide.

Country: South Africa

Languages: Narration English. Speech English.

Audience: Adult, Graduate, Undergraduate

Genre: documentary, feature

Specific Subjects: apartheid/anti-apartheid, conflict, law/legal system, politics/government, racial relations, society

Synopsis: This documentary follows four South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission cases, over a two-year period. The commission is aimed at making victims and perpetrators come to terms with their past.

Summary by Minutes:
0-5 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) introduced; footage of townships; Amy Biehl's trial-interview with Amy's father;

5-10 Interviews with Amy's murderer (the TRC participant) and his family members;

10-15 Biehl's parents meet her murderer's parents-covered by AP news; TRC trial; interview with TRC participant;

15-20 Discussion about TRC process; Trial for the Cradock teachers' disappearances;

20-25 Interview with a security force officer involved in the disappearances;

25-30 Interviews with the teachers' widows; TRC trial-description of the murders, evidence; interview with one of the widows after the trial;

30-35 Desmond Tutu interview-TRC as "restorative justice." TRC trials and media coverage; Interview with widow's lawyer;

35-40 Widow discusses her husband's funeral-media coverage of the June 1985 funeral; the security force officer's goal was "to commit the murders and get away with it."

40-45 Interviews with officer, widows; Commentary on TRC trials; next trial involves the ANC's military wing, the MK-footage from training camps and interview with a freedom fighter;

45-50 Durban, June 1985- the MK bombed a bar and three died; Robert McBride arrested for attack and released six years later as part of apartheid negotiations;

50-55 Bar victims' relatives testify against McBride at TRC; McBride's opinions on TRC and his hearing; 80% of those who applied for TRC amnesty were black;

55-60 Juxtaposition of white and black neighborhoods; next trial is for March 3, 1987 "Guguletu 7" township murders--coverage by local news;

60-65 Mother of one of the victims tells about going to court in Wynberg shortly after it happened--the case was dismissed and the police's actions defended; the retrial occurs before TRC;

65-70 "Guguletu 7" funeral footage; mother and father of one victim were arrested and beaten; 9 members of the police were subpoenaed for the TRC;

70-75 Watching news and police's own coverage of the murders at TRC; 2 of 25 policemen involved applied for amnesty; the two who testify give very different stories;

75-80 Interview with police officer who infiltrated township; discussion of black men in police force;

80-90 One of the police officers meets with the victims' families; Epilogue: Biehl's killer granted amnesty, other trials still awaiting outcome;

Suggested Uses: Teachers can use some of the episodes in film as a basis for their students to investigate subjects like: 1. Anti-apartheid youth activism. 2. What are the ethics of violence versus non-violence when fighting against injustice? 3. What might have driven a black person to collaborate with the apartheid era government in South Africa? Ask students to place themselves in the position of any of the perpetrators in the films and imagine what they would have done in their particular situation. Role playing and debating these and other topics could help take students into the deep textures of South African history and politics. The issue of violence and the use of violence in a political struggle provides a rich opportunity for educational dialogue. The actions taken by perpetrators described in the film afford an occasion for mock trials or mock TRC hearings in which fundamental ethical and legal questions can be examined. Though constructs, they can be substantive exercises in which students and others can probe real and ongoing issues within both the South African and US criminal justice systems, concerns such as capital punishment and the treatment of juvenile offenders. A facilitator's guide for this film is available from California Newsreel.

Reviews: Click Here

Distributor Info:
California Newsreel: Library of African Cinema (Sale and Rent)
500 Third Street
Suite 505
San Francisco, CA 94107 USA
Phone: 415-284-7800, ext.
Fax: (415-284-7801

Record updated: 2009-10-07 15:20:15

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