Based on Michael Ashton’s play The Archbishop and the Antichrist and directed by Roland Joffé, The Forgiven is a fictionalised account of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s efforts as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and follows his struggle – morally and intellectually – with brutal murderer and member of a former apartheid-era hit squad Piet Blomfeld, over redemption and forgiveness.
The film revisits the height of the TRC to grapple with the terrible truth of apartheid and its legacy and is aligned with Joffé’s knack reputation for hard-hitting political stories as it is analytical and bluntly violent in its depiction of South Africa’s recent political history.
“This is a subject that’s both social and political but also rather personal because let’s be honest, we’ve all done things in our lives that we need forgiveness for, that we haven’t come to terms with. We’re all prisoners of our history, whether it’s social, cultural or family,” Joffé said.
The Forgiven stars Academy-Award winner, Forrest Whitaker as the Archbishop as well as Eric Bana as Piet Blomfeld. Both actors deliver finely nuanced performances, with Whitaker conveying Tutu’s formidable inner strength, dignity, and compassion while Bana makes loathsome Blomfeld suitably scary and human at the same time.
“I knew his laugh, his sense of humour, how he felt, his passion, and his faith. But he has a graceful way in which he looks at the world. Trying to pull those things together, to capture the spirit of the man, was challenging,” Whitaker said.
With powerful acting, relevant social commentary, adept writing, and direction, The Forgiven is a powerful film, and a testament to the power of forgiveness and finding common ground in humanity.
Speaking on the film, Archbishop Tutu said the film captures what it felt like to work with the TRC in attempts to help bring both truth and reconciliation to the people of South Africa.
“The film is a tribute to the remarkable healing power of forgiveness and the outstanding compassion and courage of those who offered love and forgiveness as an antidote to hate and inhumanity. This is not only a film about a certain time and place, it is a peen of hope to humanity at large,” said Tutu.
The Forgiven was released in South African cinemas on 5 October.
Watch The Forgiven trailer below: