Screenings BFI London Film Festival
13th October 2017 8.40pm at Picturehouse Central
14th October 2017 8.45pm at empire
15th October 2017 6.15pm at Curzon Mayfair
“So many secrets, it’s like a cancer.” Powerful words from Archbishop Desmond Tutu that aptly summarise a country on its knees in the 1990s. At the end of the 20th century, South Africa was emerging from 43 years of Apartheid, a national system that involved high level racial segregation and discrimination, mainly to the disadvantage of Black ethnic groups. In the years that led up to the turn of the century, mass change was occurring in the state. One Nelson Mandela was leading the country with the backing of the African National Congress Party and Archbishop Desmond Tutu chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, an organisation that offered amnesty and forgiveness for those individuals who confessed about committing racial crimes. It is at this moment The Forgiven begins.
It’s 1993. Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Forest Whitaker) has been summoned to the cell block of race hate murderer Piet Bloomfeld (Eric Bana), who has requested the minister’s presence in an attempt to seek a pardon for the crimes of his past. Confessing that the prisoner’s offences are too severe to be granted forgiveness from the state, Tutu offers the convict a chance to record a detailed confession that will bring justice to the families who lost loved ones at his hand. Initially refusing, Bloomfeld turns the Archbishop away after explaining to him why he hates those of differing ethnicities, and returns to his cell to face his own battles against resident gangs in the prison. In captivating scenes of dialogue between the two men, a narrative begins to emerge about the scars under Bloomfeld’s skin and how Tutu can offer a path to redemption whilst interpreting the racial misconceptions in the minds of half a nation.
In a picture that leaves no stone unturned when it comes to amplifying the genuine racial division and hatred in South Africa, both Whitaker and Bana give outstanding performances of the highest calibre. The level of accuracy in the depiction of white stereotypes towards South African natives is overwhelmingly shocking, and Bana delivers a chilling interpretation of an individual fuelled purely by hatred and superiority of the white man. He carries a fearful and powerful aura around him, even though he is the one in the chains, and when accompanied by the calming intelligence of Whitaker’s Desmond Tutu, the pair exude a beautiful, dynamic chemistry that creates such a meaningful feature film.
The movie is fleshed out with a side plot focusing on internal prison politics, and along with flashbacks to Bloomfeld’s past The Forgiven maintains a wonderful fluidity and pacing. With an educational and thought-provoking script, director Roland Joffé and writer Michael Ashton have created a stunning piece of film that shows a visionary perspective on how to tell stories that demand a platform. The Forgiven really is an emotional masterpiece that will bring a tear to the eye as the final credits role, delivering a poignant message that will resonate deep within in our minds and shake our moral compasses to the core.