Long Night's Journey Into Day

Institute History


It is rare to witness a journey into the raw soul of a society. Deborah
Hoffmann and Frances Reid manage to make such a journey in this extraordinary documentary about South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

At the end of a forty-year reign of apartheid, those who enforced its violent rule wanted amnesty for their crimes, while their victims often demanded violent retaliation. In answer to these furious and conflicting desires, Bishop Desmond Tutu proposed that instead of turning to the sword for retribution, the country could restore its damaged soul by telling and bearing witness to the truth.

Long Night’s Journey into Day shows South Africa’s quest for restorative justice as it follows four dramatically different cases that come before the commission over the course of two-and-a-half years. In two examples, the parents of white American exchange student Amy Biehl meet their daughter’s black murderer and his family, and the wives of the slain activists known as the Cradock Four confront the white policeman who admits he killed their husbands.

Hoffmann and Reid combine the texture of the South African landscape with dramatic archival footage showing the enormous tide of black resistance and some of the most powerful testimonial footage about apartheid to date. In our times, when many nations remain haunted by a history of state-sponsored terror and oppression, Long Night’s Journey into Day is a particularly inspiring portrait of a wounded society attempting to humanize itself by taking seriously the importance of heart and conscience and reaping the astonishing and redemptive benefits of telling the truth.

— Shari Frilot

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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