In My Country (2004)
Director: John Boorman
Starring: Samuel Jackson (Langston Whitfield), Juliette Binoche (Ana Malan), Brendan Gleeson (De Jager), Menzi Ngubane (Dumi Mkhalipi)
An American reporter (Samuel L. Jackson) and an Afrikaans poet (Juliette Binoche) meet and fall in love while covering South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.
Many of the family and relatives of those killed during the civil rights struggle in South Africa, both white and black, knew they might never learn the truth about what happened to their relatives and friends, believed killed in the struggle. So South Africa came up with a Commission at which the perpetrators of dastardly deeds could openly confess their crimes (with details about the crimes) without being prosecuted for these crimes. (That is, as long as the confessors told the whole and complete truth.) It was a very painful process for the nation because many of the stories were of cold-blooded, vicious political killings of chosen targets and innocents.
Bad movie. This review will be a diatribe against the movie. I am prejudiced against it because I don't like adultery (especially when it is given a seal of approval) and because the movie is mean-spirited and has no understanding of the message of Mandela.
The movie covers the Truth and Reconciliation hearings. The writer(s) got the truth part right, but not the Reconciliation, proving they know nothing about South Africa.
American reporter Langston Whitfield (Samuel Jackson) is more of a follower of the early Malcolm X than he is Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mandela. He is so filled with hatred that he comes near to being a racist against whites. He is merciless with his fellow reporter, the white poet Ana Malan (Juliette Binoche). He rakes her over the coals, even though she was a white liberal in a country that was wickedly racist.
She tries to convince "Malcolm X" that it's not about blame. It's about healing. It's about rejecting hate and going on with your life because hate kills others and one's self. But no, the writers have the Mandela Ana giving into Malcolm X. Anna soon becomes a psychological mess with her new sense of "white guilt."
(I am a civil rights activist with my name on the wall of the Southern Poverty Law Center of those who have made a contribution to civil rights. And I have never for one moment felt any "white guilt." What a waste of time to feel guilty. Do something for truth and justice, which is beyond black and white. No Mr. "Malcolm X"; skin is not everything.)
Anna may be suffering from a milder form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. She is a poet and super sensitive and takes this too much onto herself. She has a near public mental breakdown during one meeting of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, giggling at the testimony of a white man about the death of his son by a land mine planted by black activists. She becomes an almost constant crier. I frankly got tired of her crying and was disgusted by her love smile for her lover. (She is so guilt ridden that she even develops a grudge against her own native language.)
"Malcolm X" is there to take advantage of her "white guilt" and Anna is anxious to try to expiate her "white guilt" so they begin an affair. Anna apparently forgot that she is married with three children. Or, she is too morally weakened by her overwhelming feeling of guilt that she tries to expunge it through sex.
I don't understand these liberals who say they can't understand how people can be so cruel, so sadistic. Don't they know there are many sadistic people who are willing, no, positively enthusiastic, about torturing and murdering people, especially if it is sanctioned by the state. If a person did not have the stomach for torture and rape, they would never have joined that part of the police empowered with the extraction of information from prisoners through any means necessary.
Anna has lost her moral compass. She even brings her lover to meet her parents! Now, that's just sick! And when she learns that her brother was a past torturer, she confronts him with her moral indignation and tears, and he winds up killing himself. Now, she has something really legitimate to feel guilty about.
"Malcolm X" does not understand forgiveness, reconciliation, healing. He is too damaged by hate. He does not have the moral authority to be our instructor in South Africa. Bring me Mandela, not a man filled with hate.
Should we watch movies that foster hate of any kind -- against whites or blacks or Jews or Arabs? I think not. I would skip this movie unless you either hate white people anyway or are a white person filled with "white guilt." The rest of you, save your money and don't buy this DVD.
P.S. Testimony about atrocities just is not as effective as letting an audience get to know the future victims and then revealing the atrocities committed against them. And the message of hate in the movie also cheapens the testimony of the victims.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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