Movie Review: Long Night's Journey Into Day

By Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D
Movie Magazine International

LONG NIGHT’S JOURNEY INTO DAY, the award-winning documentary film from 2000, provides a journey into the post apartheid South African Truth and Reconciliation hearings. After the collapse of apartheid and the end of 40 years of governing by racial domination, those who enforced apartheid rule wanted amnesty for their crimes. The Truth and Reconciliation Council (TRC) was formed, and the amnesty cases were considered on a case-by-case basis. Full disclosure and a political motive are required for amnesty. Over 22,000 people told their stories; 7,000 perpetrators from all political parties applied for amnesty. Eighty percent of those applying for amnesty were black.

LONG NIGHT’S JOURNEY INTO DAY follows four cases of amnesty, giving the audience a personal view of something that seemed chaotic and incomprehensible in our news. The hope, according to TRC Chairman Archbishop Desmond Tutu, was to get to the truth, so that healing can take place, and so that they could know what to avoid in the future. Through footage of the hearings, interviews and archival footage, we learn the heart-rending circumstances of the slaughters. We also see inspiring landscape wide shots, and scenes of the present-day orderly Cape Town. Stirring and evocative South African music reflects feelings the film stirs up in the viewer by witnessing amnesty participants’ grief and raw emotions.

A TRC Commissioner, Glenda Wilkscut says that a blanket amnesty would have deprived families of the knowledge that they gain in the individual cases. We watch as mothers have to view videos of their slain sons, and widows have to re-live their husbands’ cold-blooded murders. But with each case, the telling and the acknowledging of the wrongs brings a new level of resolution and lightness to the participants. We witness people reclaiming their humanity and civility and moving towards healing.

With the brilliantly descriptive title, LONG NIGHT’S JOURNEY INTO DAY has won nine awards, including the 2000 Sundance Film Festival Grand Prize, Best Documentary Award. The film’s many nominations include the 2000 Academy Award nomination for best documentary feature. Bay Area veteran social issues filmmakers Frances Reid (SKIN DEEP) is the Director/Producer, and Deborah Hoffman (COMPLAINTS OF A DUTIFUL DAUGHTER) is Director/Editor. LONG NIGHT'S JOURNEY INTO DAY, about uncontrolled violence, contrition, forgiveness, and redemption, is a film that every citizen of the world should see. For more information and to purchase the DVD, see

A white reporter who lost her father to violence as a child in South Africa invoked the words of Maya Angelou apropos of the Truth and Reconciliation processs: "History, despite its wrenching pain, can not be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again."

For Movie Magazine, this is Joan Widdifield.
More Information:
Long Night's Journey Into Day
Directed by: Deborah Hoffman and Frances Reid