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The Consequences of Truth

Long Night’s Journey Into Day is a film that is well-described solely by its title; it chronicles the stories of four South Africans seeking amnesty in the aftermath of apartheid. Out of the four stories that were told, the first one was the one that had the most impact on me. Amy Biehl’s death was violent, unwarranted, and utterly unfair; despite this fact, Amy’s parents were able to forgive, and even offer comfort, to their daughter’s killer. This was able to be achieved because Amy’s parents understood the deep struggles being experienced by the killers and the actions that led them to take Amy’s life; although it was certainly unwarranted, the fact that both Amy’s murderer and her parents were able to find forgiveness reflected the TRC’s effectiveness in achieving its goals of reconciliation. It was through the full explanation of the truth that, in some of the cases shown, both sides were able to understand the motivations that fueled their actions. 

Despite the successes of Amy Biehl’s case, others were not as successful. The caveat of obtaining amnesty was that one must expose the full truth of what occurred; Robert McBride was repeatedly criticized by the sister of one of the individuals he killed in a bomb attack. Her frustration is contrasted by Robert’s own, in which he expresses his anger at having never received apologies for the oppression he faced. In the fourth portion of the film, in which it goes over the story of the “Guguleti 7,” it is revealed that one of the police officers that murdered the black activists was also black. The mothers of those that are murdered were profoundly distraught and significantly less forgiving than others had been. Their anger is magnified by the fact that he sold out and killed his “own blood.” Mbelo himself offers little comfort; in reference to the murders, he states that “It felt like a day’s work had been done.” This, to me, displayed the full nature of truth. Although it offered forgiveness and comfort in some cases, in others, it only showed the full depth of the depravity that permeates human society. 

One thought on “The Consequences of Truth”

  1. Cool. A couple of things to think about (and I’m hoping we’ll get to some of this in class today): why do you think the filmmakers chose to use Biehl’s story as the frame for the film? And what made it the most impactful for you? I’m also interested in the question of whether forgiveness works as a measure, or the only measure, of the “success” of the TRC – what does Tutu say about that? Could we imagine the process of having these stories told as doing important work even if family members are not willing to offer up forgiveness?


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