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Langston Whitfield (Samuel L. Jackson) is a Washington Post journalist covering South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, where those who've murdered and tortured apologize to their victims in hopes of gaining amnesty. When Langston meets the most notorious torturer in the SA Police (Brendan Gleeson), the experience forces him to confront his own demons. Anna (Juliette Binoche), an Afrikaans poet covering the hearings for radio, is also shattered by the accounts of cruelty. The moving testimony affects both reporters deeply, and their shared experience draws them ever closer to each other. Directed by John Boorman (The Tailor of Panama).


Once upon a time there was a white nation with a big black population. The whites believed that the blacks were inferior and incapable of responsibility, so they kept them in subjection. The blacks began to campaign for the rights enjoyed by the whites. The whites felt threatened by this. The blacks persisted with non-violent protests and labor strikes. These were put down: first with batons, then tear gas, followed by rubber bullets and finally live ammunition.

With many activists in jail or killed, some of the blacks decided to take up arms against their oppressors. The whites called these people terrorists. When they captured them, the whites decided that the due process of law would not be sufficient to deal with them. For security of the homeland it was essential to extract information, so torture was sanctioned in order that terrorists would name their fellow terrorists and reveal where they could be located. They also found that if women were repeatedly raped, they would eventually give information.

Incensed by these methods, more blacks took to the gun and the bomb. A civil war was imminent. A bloodbath was predicted. The whites came to realise that for every terrorist they killed or imprisoned, ten more would take their place. Fortunately for this country, one of these imprisoned terrorists, after twenty-eight years in jail, was prepared to forgive his oppressors and started a dialogue with the whites. They had no defence against his love and understanding of them. He and his friends negotiated a settlement in which the blacks were allowed to vote and enjoy equal rights. A massacre, a genocide, was averted. His name is Nelson Mandela, a terrorist who became the President of his country and is admired throughout the world.

Mandela believes that truth is freedom, and forgiveness (the African word is ubuntu) is the only solution to conflict. But how can we lesser mortals achieve it? That’s what this movie is about.