Long Night's Journey into Day (2000)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Long Night's Journey into Day Photos

Movie Info

This documentary examines the workings of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), established after the end of apartheid for wrongdoers to confess their transgressions to the families of their victims. It follows several cases that the group has monitored, including those of a white police officer who meets the families of the Craddock Four, black activists who died at his hands, and the parents of a white American exchange student who encounter the black man who killed their daughter. Long Night's Journey Into Day was directed by Frances Reid, who earned an Oscar nomination for her short subject Straight From the Heart, and Deborah Hoffman, an Oscar nominee for Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter.
Documentary , Drama , Special Interest
Directed By:
In Theaters:
Iris Films/Cinemax Reel Life


Critic Reviews for Long Night's Journey into Day

All Critics (15) | Top Critics (8)

Not merely affecting and illuminating; it concludes on a note of hope.

March 12, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

As they demonstrated in their previous collaborations ... Reid and Hoffmann tackle controversial issues with passion and conviction.

Full Review… | February 14, 2001
Top Critic

Wrenching, powerful material.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

Refreshingly free of the high-mindedness that plagues so many well-meaning documentaries.

December 31, 1999
New York Post
Top Critic

Spare, direct, and devastatingly effective, the film puts fuzzy, big-word concepts like absolution and redemption into an agonizingly vivid context.

December 31, 1999
Village Voice
Top Critic

Moving and purposefully complex.

December 31, 1999
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Long Night's Journey into Day


[img]http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/30/30_images/longnights3.jpg[/img] In order to gain accurate insight into the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s success in South Africa, one must analyze the situation as objectively as possible so as to avoid personal bias and support claims with elements of indisputable truth. In the case of the post-apartheid predicament in South Africa, several questions immediately come to mind. Was resolution obtained by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission? Were the people involved able to face the past and use it to move in a positive direction towards the future? What effect did the commission’s amnesty program have on both the perpetrators of the crimes as well as the victims? The insightful documentary titled "A Long Night’s Journey Into Day," a clever reversal of a more common phrase, revealed a group of people seeking redemption for past atrocities. By analyzing the rigorous and often self-effacing amnesty program, the film ultimately questioned whether positive peace can be obtained through the act of forgiveness. In order to answer their central question, the film makers analyzed a few select cases in the amnesty process and attempted to shed untinted light upon the feelings and emotions of both sides involved in the conflict; those policing the state under unjust rule, and those fighting against what they saw as grievous injustice. Justification for the struggle that leads to violence can be found in the words of Martin Luther King, who suggested that subjugated people know from experience that the oppressed must demand freedom from their oppressors if they are ever to achieve true success. While King went about his struggle using non-violent means, those in South Africa, feeling mistreated by the chains of apartheid, were often led down the dark path towards direct violence. In reality the situation is more complex than that. Violent acts were most often committed against a system that was indeed treating its people unequally using inhumane means of repression. While the question immediately arises as to why those in high seats of power have not yet received their just desserts, the film chooses a more intimate and less ideological approach. By following the post-traumatic lives of mother’s who lost their children and the young men and women who fought and died within the cruelty of a poorly run country, "A Long Night’s Journey Into Day" analyzed the situation from a ground level. These were the people directly effected by the conflict, and it seems only natural that they were chosen as the subjects of the documentary. When viewed in a proverbial magnifying glass, the story of South Africa takes on the type of unspeakable tragedy that can only be achieved by means of grievous human error. The tears dripping down the faces of both victims and perpetrators spoke lucidly to the ineffably humanistic quality the entire conflict encapsulated. These were men and women taken advantage of by a corrupt government, led towards violence by the basest of emotions, and left unsure of what they have done and whether it was correct or merely savage. This is where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission steps in. The TRC chose to attack the problem of justice in South Africa by making use of innate human compassion and the capacity for men and women to feel guilt and remorse. This method of peace promotion, associative in nature because of its intent to demolish fences and bring people together under common bounds, brings with it a host of questions. One of the most pertinent questions revolves around the often duplicitous nature of honesty. In other words, are the people being tried for amnesty credible in their recollection of the truth? "A Long Day’s Journey Into Night" answers this question in several different ways. It begins by showing a case where the parents of Amy Biehl, a peace-activist daughter killed during the conflict, make the trek over to South Africa with the intent of forgiving the parents of the killer and supporting their son’s quest for amnesty. This act, that of supporting their daughter’s killer in his quest for amnesty, is one that raised many eyebrows. This alone speaks to the back seat forgiveness has taken throughout the world. Preconceived notions left all sides confused when the parents of Amy suggested they would support their daughter’s killer. Instead of bearing a grudge for the terrible acts of violence committed against their own daughter, the Biehl’s took a step back and used level heads to come to a conclusion which ultimately made more sense for all involved. Instead of punishing the murderers in Hammurabi like fashion, the Biehl’s chose not to ignore the political climate at the time of their daughter’s murder. South Africa at the time was a racially charged pit of aggression. Their daughter was on a mission to help end the crisis by promoting peace and forgiveness among the two groups. Realizing their daughter’s goals, the Biehl’s chose to honor her ideals rather than seek vapid, unsatisfying, and regressive natured revenge. By setting an example for the rest of amnesty cases to follow, the Biehls suggested that through forgiveness one can achieve progress towards positive peace. The results were on screen for all to see. In the film, the mother of the killer broke down in tears and embraced the Biehl parents for their understanding. One can only assume the killers themselves would do the same. A lesser and more narrowminded film would have stopped here with an apotheosis of optimism and success. Instead, "A Long Nights Journey Into Day" pressed onward and chose to take a deeper look at other cases which contained successively more blurred lines of truth and reality. In the case of Eric Taylor, a policeman during the time of apartheid who killed for the government and now claims to have seen the error of his ways, the families of the young men he killed are far more reticent to accept his apology and appeal for amnesty. They feel that instead of expressing true regret through the TRC, Taylor is simply using his amnesty hearing as a tool for rebuilding his reputation on unscathed ground. Interviewees in the film raise the question of whether some men truly are unreformable animals, unable to see their faults and come to any sort of reconciliation with those they have harmed. The TRC itself was put in place not because they felt it could solve all the problems of South Africa, of which there are many, but rather to lay a solid foundation for the nonviolent promotion of positive peace. They were largely successful. A humanist experiment in conflict resolution of the largest scale, the TRC seeks to use perpetrators’ feelings of guilt as a means of leverage. When put in the arena of the court room, killers suddenly realize that they are not as grand as they once thought they were. Further, when questioned by real attorneys and families of those they have violated, the perpetrators are forced to face what they have done head on and without compromise. As the documentary pointed out, it can be a humbling experience. The individuals in favor of the reconciliation movement are an example themselves of the TRC’s success. Many of those in favor of amnesty for killers during the time of apartheid are the people who were affected most by cruel forms of violence that apartheid bred. Cynthia Nomveyu Ngewu, whose son was shot down by the police in March of 1986, showed hope and optimism for the future when she said, "I think that all South Africans should be committed to the idea of re-accepting these people back into the community. We do not want to return the evil that perpetrators committed to the nation. We want to demonstrate humaneness towards them, so that they in turn may restore their own humanity." This is essentially what the TRC is trying to be; a demonstration of compassion amidst great turmoil. It seeks to prove, using concrete evidence as its proof, that positive peace can be attained using humanistic means even after a period of most dire conflict. As famous french auteur Jean-Luc Godard said, "Film is truth 24 frames per second." The truth of the situation in South Africa lies on the weeping faces of mothers and fathers who, in one way or another, lost their children to structural violence. When peace is imposed by violence, as was the case of Apartheid where the government maintained peace through means of massive structural violence, the individuals of the society are ultimately the ones victimized. Why we do not hear more about the UN or the TRC going after those who were in power during apartheid’s reign remains puzzling. Neglecting its faults, the TRC achieved success on many levels. Going back to the questions posed earlier, one can see that while the TRC has not attained ultimate resolution, it has set the foundation for a movement which can. It proved that people are capable of facing their past in order to shed light on the future. "A Long Nights Journey Into Day" provided distinct cases of both perpetrators and victims realizing that through forgiveness personal peace can be attained. If this level of personal peace transcends itself outward towards the barriers of societal living, as we all hope it will, it can be said that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has achieved their goal of using human forgiveness as a tool of peace, which is fairly remarkable.

Kevin G.
Kevin G.

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