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By Ed Huery

GENRE: Historical, Drama

In 1996, shortly after the end of apartheid, a quiet and respected small town doctor must confront the consequences of a brutal past when a South African reporter arrives asking about a boy who went missing shortly after the 1976 Soweto student demonstrations.


In 1992, after winning the first multi-racial elections in South African history, President Nelson Mandela institutes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Its purpose was to listen to the horrific stories of the people of South Africa and help to heal the deep wounds and scars left by apartheid. For NYAMI NTZEMBESA, whose son MAKENI was lost in the violent aftermath of the June 16, 1976 student demonstrations, telling her story, is the last opportunity to know how her son died and where his body lays. Born in South Africa but raised and educated in the United States, STEPHANIE KEELING is an American journalist covering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when she hears Nyami's story. She approaches Nyami and offers to help. Stephanie's investigation leads her to a former police officer named PIETER TATHAM, a careful man with a dark and brutal past.

Hoping to escape the violence in South Africa, Pieter reinvents himself as a small town doctor and family man living in rural Idaho. Stephanie tracks him to his adopted community and manages to befriend both Pieter’s wife WENDY, and a good friend, FATHER FRANK, at whose church the Tathams are regular attendees. It soon becomes evident that Wendy knows nothing of Pieter’s past as a South African police officer. Stephanie suspects that Father Frank knows something is not quite right with the good doctor. Stephanie confronts Pieter with evidence of his violent past, but Pieter knows things that she does not. Having ascertained the nature of Stephanie’s family connections to her native land, he turns the tables. Her own family is not as innocent as she might like to believe, and Pieter relishes the opportunity to inform her that it was her own father who allowed the use of her family’s farm for the purpose of countless police interrogations. Shocked and disconcerted, Stephanie denies the accusation and races away. Overcome by emotion, she wrecks her car and is severely injured. Pieter is called to the scene, where he takes the lead in gently disentangling her broken body from the twisted wreckage. After Pieter performs CPR, Stephanie revives and is taken away by the ambulance.

While recovering from her injuries, Stephanie has second thoughts about exposing Pieter as a killer. Instead, she demands that he tell his wife about his past and return to South Africa to confess his crimes. Pieter reluctantly agrees to her terms and returns home to tell his wife the truth. Wendy is horrified at his confession and rejects his pleas for understanding. After an excruciating period of alienation, Wendy reconciles with Pieter, saying “This is not the man I know”. Relieved, Pieter tells her that he must return to South Africa to testify before the Commission. She begs him to take her and their son for support, but Pieter insists he must go alone. Standing before the Commission in a packed and tense hearing, Pieter admits to participating in the cruelty of Makeni's last hours on earth. Later, in the privacy of her home, Pieter faces the boy's long-suffering mother, Nyami. He tells her of her son's fate, and of his own complicity in the crime. Ashamed and afraid before the woman, he is shocked when she thanks him for his confession and proceeds to forgive him for the outrage he has committed against her family. He protests that he is unworthy of her compassion, but she persists. Ultimately though, her voice rings hollow through his soul. No man can truly be forgiven, who cannot summon the courage to forgive himself. Today, South Africa celebrates National Youth Day on June 16th, in memory of those students who fought and died for freedom on that fateful day.

Nathaniel Baker

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