The French release of “The Forgiven” takes place early January 2019, but a select number of moviegoers got to see the film Dec. 15 when American actor Forest Whitaker hosted a pre-screening in Paris alongside director Roland Joffé.
Forest Whitaker at the pre-screening of "The Forgiven".
(Photo courtesy of UNESCO)
Based on the play "The Archbishop and the Antichrist" by Michael Ashton, “The Forgiven” tells a story that involves Archbishop Desmond Tutu's search for answers during South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The drama pits Tutu against the fictional character Piet Blomfeld - a convicted murderer, who is a composite of various racist personalities - played by the Australian actor Eric Bana.
While many critics have hailed the subject matter, noting that Tutu’s historical role is a worthy topic, most panned the heavy-handed treatment by English-French director Joffé when the film was released in the United States and the UK last March. Variety magazine reviewer Guy Lodge, for instance, wrote that the movie was “drab” and “vigourless”, and a far cry from Joffé’s award-winning work on “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission”.
“The Forgiven” (or just "Forgiven" for the French market) might, however, strike a stronger chord with French viewers, where the questions of égalité and liberté spark philosophical discourse, even amidst hypocrisy in national dealings with oppressive regimes.
|The French-language poster for the film.|
Whitaker plays Tutu, who is running the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the end of apartheid and who visits Cape Town's Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison to meet Blomfeld, a former officer of the South African Defence Force and member of a neo-Nazi organization, to assess his candidacy for amnesty.
Blomfeld is a potential witness to murders committed under apartheid, including the disappearance of the teenage daughter of Mrs. Morobe (played with poignant depth by Thandi Makhubele), who implores the archbishop to find answers regarding her missing child.
The movie comprises other sub-plots, but the main action consists of the tense confrontations and psychological games between Tutu and Blomfeld, which, if nothing else, may spur viewers to do research on the apartheid era (and its legacy). If that happens, the film will have served a purpose, whatever one thinks of the overall production.
The Paris pre-screening took place at the headquarters of the United Nations' cultural agency, UNESCO, during the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The UDHR was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in Paris on Dec. 10, 1948.
“It is always inspiring to see people coming together to watch a movie about justice,” said Whitaker, who is UNESCO’s Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation.
Distribution (France): SAJE Distribution.