In My Country
2005
Washington Post journalist Langston Whitfield (Samuel L. Jackson) heads to South Africa to cover the post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, at which perpetrators of racial violence are compelled to atone for their actions in front of their victims. But as he begins to doubt that the nation will ever be able to heal, he meets a white Afrikaner poet (Juliette Binoche), who changes his feelings from hopelessness to love.

Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

Samuel L. Jackson and Juliette Binoche are actors of effortless appeal, but even their combined charisma is not quite enough to convince us that the love story supposedly at the heart of this post-Apartheid drama is anything but a distraction from the much more important events going on around them. Nelson Mandela’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was one of the brightest ideas of the twentieth century: Instead of trying to forget the atrocities committed in the country’s name, a decision that continues to plague Germany after sixty years, his Commission offered amnesty to any officer of Apartheid who gave a full confession of his crimes and listened to his victims’ stories in court. The film partially bungles these testimonial scenes when it populates a montage sequence with the same faces we’ve already seen, making it seem as if this nationwide program has approximately ten participants, but worse, it turns to an unconvincing and dramatically inert love affair between two reporters covering the events. As a white Afrikaan and a black American, their dialogue about the past and future of South Africa is interesting and awkwardly hopeful, but the film puts them in the way of better material. It also would help if the DVD included subtitles, since the South African accent is occasionally incomprehensible; I had to rewind a crucial scene three times just to understand why the hell it had happened. This is a thoughtful film about an interesting historical experiment and not at all difficult to watch, but I wish I could say it was better.

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