A fictional narrative created to encompass several storiesthat personify the nation-altering emotional crux of South Africa's Truthand Reconciliation hearings, "In My Country" accomplishes itsgoal -- but does so largely through obvious plot devices.
JulietteBinoche and Samuel L. Jackson give strong, movingperformances as two journalists -- one Afrikaner, one African-American-- covering the gut-wrenching testimony as the oppressed came face-to-facewith their oppressors during these historical early-1990s committees, heldall over the upended nation as it transitioned from apartheid to democracy.But it's too obvious that their characters are designed to represent (orat least be acquainted with) particular points of view that must come toa symbolic accord for the country's race issues to be resolved.
She comes from an enlightened perspective about equality,but her rich, white family is nervous about living in the new South Africa-- and of course they have skeletons in their closets that soon come tolight. He has a huge chip on his shoulder about race relations, havinggrown up seeing America's Civil Rights movement pave the way for more equalitybefore the country developed a collective sense of denial about the lingeringdiscrimination still ingrained in its culture.
Whenever an opportunity is contrived to give them idletime together (a flat tire strands them in a remote area, they get drunkafter a tough day listening to shocking accounts of atrocities), the pairdebates the issues of justice and hope that "In My Country" isdesigned to address. And because this is a movie, they soon fall into ametaphorical romance.
Director John Boorman ("TheTailor of Panama," "The General")has his heart in the right place, but these moments, and many others, ringloudly of machination. At times Jackson's character seems to exist specificallyas a conduit, asking simplistic questions that allow locals to expresslarger truths and pronounce the film's central themes. This becomes evenmore apparent in scenes dispersed throughout the film of Jackson interviewinga particularly heinous racist (Brendan Gleeson) who is scheduled to arrogantlydefend his actions in the movie's finale.
"In My Country" does cut to the bone with itsdepictions of some terrible events described in the hearings that are centralto the plot, and Boorman's storytelling is effective, from Binoche's painednarration to the beautiful photography that seems to always be capturingsymbolic sunsets and sunrises over breathtaking vistas. But while the filmsucceeds in its emotional veracity, there is an underlying oversimplificationbetraying the fact that the truth and reconciliation of South Africa'spast is not something easily summed up in 104 minutes.
Run time: 105 mins
In Theaters: Friday 7th May 2004
Box Office Worldwide: 1
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics
Production compaines: Chartoff Productions, Merlin Films
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 22%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 63
IMDB: 6.0 / 10
Director: John Boorman
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