I went into this film not knowing what to expect and not really wanting to watch it. However, that quickly changed after the first 15 minutes of watching. All four of the stories caught my interest, but the last story really piqued my interest. There is one situation that I was able to pick out from the last story. This is how Mbelo was able to deal with killing the young men in the “Guguletu 7” and not feel anything afterwards.
Constable Mbelo was one of the 25+ officers, and one of the 3 black officers that were involved in this murder. This was interesting in two ways, one being the fact that there were 3 black men involved, and two being the fact that he was the only of the 3 to come forward and ask for amnesty. My first thought was, “Why would you kill your own people?” This was the same question one of the mothers asked him. From the mothers’ point of view, he had no answer. But, from his jobs point of view, he was able to give an answer that was very unempathetic for the mothers to hear.
Mbelo mentions that he and Bellingan were not there on the same mission, and this was very true. He has to be able to face his brothers and sisters after killing their children. He says that he was following orders and what he did was not a personal matter. But how can you set up, and aid in the killing of 7 young men who are also black? Yes, I understand that he had an order, and was obligated to fulfill it, but how were you able to do this deed, or kill people period, with no type of emotion? I was not shocked that he was granted amnesty, but I still can help but wonder if deep down, he still has no emotion for what he did.
The film Long Night’s Journey Into Day features four stories of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission from those seeking amnesty for the crimes they have committed during apartheid in South Africa. Amnesty would be considered in exchange for the truth. Granting such pardons requires forgiveness, which is a main theme throughout the film.
The first story featured in the film greatly exemplifies the theme of forgiveness. This story in particular made headlines around the world: American exchange student, Amy Biehl, was killed in a mob by three South African men. The men claimed to be motivated by the political tensions that were undergoing in the township at the time. The killing of her “exposed both our anger and the conditions under which we lived. Because if we had been living reasonably we would not have killed her.” When is it permissible to justify murder with anger? It is still wrong. However, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated that they would consider granting amnesty to those who tell the truth, and the men do provide the truth.
The men and their families continued to express their remorse and to request amnesty for the murder of Biehl. What was extremely significant about this case was that the parents of the victim reached out and provided support to the mother of one of the murderers. After expressing her remorse to the victim’s grieving family, the mother was visited by Biehl’s parents, who ensured her that they would not oppose her son’s application to be freed from jail. Is it fair that offering remorse can allow someone to be forgiven and pardoned for their crimes?
The parents of Amy Biehl are unique in the way that they are so forgiving despite the major pain and suffering they had to experience. The story of her murder reveals that remorse and forgiveness have the ability to impact the outcome of a legal case.