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Directed by Ian Gabriel
Quanita Adams - Sannie Grootboom
Zane Meas - Hendrik Grootboom
Lionel Newton - Luke
Arnold Vosloo - Tertius Coetzee

Genre: Drama
Country: South Africa
Language: English
Duration: 115 min
Filming Locations: Johannesburg, South Africa
Cannes Film Festival 2003
Tertius Coetzee is 42 years old. He lives in a one-roomed flat and works as a store-man at a motor vehicle assembly plant in Port Elizabeth. Two years ago he resigned from the South African Police after giving evidence at the Truth and Reconciliation Hearings. He has recently been granted amnesty for crimes committed in the name of Apartheid but there is still something weighing heavily upon his soul – the family of one of the victims he 'eliminated' did not come forward during the hearings and, for Coetzee, forgiveness remains incomplete.
Our story begins….Tertuis Coetzee drives into the windswept town of Paternoster on the West Coast of South Africa. He checks into a cheap B&B and starts making inquiries as to the whereabouts of the Grootboom family. Using the local Dominee (Priest) as a go-between he has his first encounter with the Grootboom family, which goes terribly badly. The father (Hendrik) is a fisherman, barely able to support his wife (Magda), eldest daughter (Sannie) and youngest son (Ernest). The last thing they want is for the past to be dug up. Sannie is especially angry. She’s a good-looking woman who was about to marry her childhood sweetheart when her eldest brother (Daniel) was found mutilated and murdered. The experience so soured her life that she withdrew from the world and has never loved since.
Sannie goes to the post office and makes a call to Johannesburg, informing Llewellyn Meintjies that Tertius Coetzee, the murderer, is in Paternoster asking for forgiveness. Llewellyn and two of his comrades were the reason Daniel was tortured to death – the police were trying to get their names and addresses out of Daniel but he wouldn’t talk, and the police, specifically Coetzee, went too far. Llewellyn tells Sannie to do whatever she can to keep Coetzee in Paternoster, so that he’ll be there with the others in three or four days 'to sort him out'.
Sannie’s change in attitude takes everyone by surprise. She encourages her family to give Coetzee a chance – perhaps the man is genuine. With reluctance Hendrik asks the Dominee to invite Coetzee to share afternoon tea with them the following day.
At first, not a lot is said during tea. Ernest sits in the corner doing 'sums' in an old school exercise book. Magda expresses her great regret that they could never afford a headstone for Daniel’s grave. Coetzee asks Magda what she would put on her son’s headstone. She writes it down on a piece of paper and hands it to him. Hendrik says nothing – he can barely make eye contact with the murderer. Sannie is her usual silent self. Coetzee asks Ernest what he’s doing. Ernest comes over and shows Coetzee some calculations – if Daniel were alive today and working as an engineer, which is what he was studying before he was murdered, he would’ve earned over two million Rand by now. Less living expenses of…say a million, does Coetzee have the balance in his bank account so that he can give it to the Grootboom family? Ernest doubts it. Tea is almost over when Sannie asks the dreaded question: 'Can you tell us truthfully how Daniel actually died?' Hendrik and Magda don’t want to hear but both Coetzee and the Dominee think that perhaps it would help the process of reconciliation. Coetzee begins to tell them how Daniel was picked up walking home from university, how he was taken to a farm outside Cape Town, how he was tortured, beaten, burned, electrocuted, half-drowned…. Ernest suddenly grabs the teapot and shatters it against the side of Coetzee’s head. Blood flows. Coetzee does not move or even defend himself – he understands and accepts Ernest’s anger. Sannie holds a towel to Coetzee’s head as the Dominee drives him to the hospital in Vredenburg. His wound is stitched and a bandage is wrapped around his head, not unlike a halo.
That evening Sannie visits Coetzee at the B&B to apologize. They go for a walk along the beach. It is here that Sannie begins to wonder if perhaps Coetzee really is genuine. He tells her about his ex-wife, how she left him after finding out about all the ugly things he was doing in the name of Apartheid. He is not looking for sympathy from Sannie, just a bit of understanding, perhaps. His life is now so empty it doesn’t matter what happens to him.
Sannie tries to call Llewellyn but he’s already left to pick up his two comrades. Now she’s worried.
The Dominee arrives at the Grootboom house with an invitation from Coetzee to join him for Sunday roast at the hotel. Coloured people don’t ever eat at the hotel – only white people eat there. The Dominee reassures them that it will be alright, that Apartheid is gone, that it’s only tradition that says white people eat at the hotel.
Lunch is sumptuous. The colored waitresses, all friends of Sannie’s, cannot stop giggling while serving the Grootboom family. After asking for silence, Coetzee announces that he has ordered a headstone from the mortuary in Vredenburg, that it will be delivered on Monday to the Paternoster graveyard with the exact words Magda wanted engraved on it, that it’s the least he can do for the family. Magda begins to cry. More wine flows. Hendrik begins to unwind, talking, reminiscing about Daniel and what a wonderful boy he was, how they would go fishing together, the nights when they braai-ed crayfish on the beach under the moon and the stars. Ernest, too, begins warming towards Coetzee, not to mention Sannie, a flush colouring her cheeks as she catches his twinkling eye. It is early evening by the time Coetzee bids the Grootboom family good night. Sannie walks with him back to his B&B. The night air is crisp, their arms touching as they walk side-by-side. Coetzee tells Sannie that she is a beautiful woman, that she should be in love, that he knows how awful it is to be out of love. Her flushed face betrays her feelings. She cannot be with him a moment longer. She turns and walks quickly away. Coetzee calls after her but she keeps on going.
Sannie stops at the post office and calls Llewellyn’s house, asking for the telephone numbers of his two comrades. She tries to dial one of the numbers but she runs out of coins. She goes to the closest house and asks for change but the people have nothing. The next house is dark, the occupants sleeping. She sees the light on in Coetzee’s bedroom at the B&B and runs towards it. Coetzee sees her coming and thinks she wants him. He goes outside to meet her, taking her in his arms. They kiss, Sannie crying, confused. She tells Coetzee about Llewellyn, that he’s coming to kill him. This act of confession draws them closer. Sannie begs Coetzee to leave immediately but he can’t – he will wait until the headstone has been delivered and only then will he leave.
The three 'Angels of Death' drive relentlessly on to Paternoster.
The headstone is delivered to the graveyard. The Grootboom family, Coetzee and the Dominee are there to unveil it. The Dominee is in the middle of a prayer about forgiveness when Llewellyn and his two comrades finally arrive. They remain seated in their car, unable to perform the act of revenge. Eventually Coetzee goes over to the car and asks them to join in the prayer. One by one they join the group around the grave. The prayer over, Coetzee asks the Dominee to take the family home. Sannie doesn’t want to leave but Coetzee tells her everything is as it should be. She leaves in tears. Coetzee climbs into his car but doesn’t drive off. He waits, and waits, silently asking the “Angels of Death” for closure. The angels oblige, each of them firing a single bullet into his body.
The epitaph on the headstone reads: 'He Died that we may be Free'.
What transpires is a series of revelations, as Sannie begins to doubt her feelings of anger toward Coetzee, and tries to notify Llewellyn and his intense comrades to turn back. But the angels of death are committed to slaying the soldier that stole their friend’s life. And so begins a race against the clock where salvation could be fatal! .

Media Release

Best Cinematography
for Forgiveness

Biccari’s stark, devastated images of the windswept, semi desert landscape of Atlantic West Coast vividly underscore the various themes of FORGIVENESS. It is about an unforgiving milieu, about the harshness of the protagonists’ lives ands their sense of loss after the execution of their son by the former apartheid police. The cinematography beautifully captures the appropriate moods and is further example of Biccari’s impressive career as a cinematographer
Best South African Feature Film
Shared between two films
directed by Ian Gabriel

The landscape of Paternoster gives a voice to the silence that continues to resonate in the South African cultural landscape. The strength of the film lies beyond its technical finesse and in its brave decision to allow for moral ambiguity.
Audience Choice Best Film
directed by Ian Gabriel
The awards to the winners of the Best Film, Best South African Feature Film and Best First Feature Film categories include cash prizes.
The festival thanks the juries for their time and expertise:
Forgiveness- "It's a South African story, written by a South African, crew and cast are South African, directed by Ian Gabriel, also South African and shot in Paternoster, West Coast," says Nadia Vosloo. The film Forgiveness opened countrywide on Friday 25th June. Already this film has made an impact on the local film scene. The movie which was directed by Ian Gabriel, has already won awards and had some rave reviews in our local press. Barry Ronge, local connoisseur on film says of Forgiveness, " ...(it) sets the bar of excellence and originality very high indeed." Forgiveness is a precursor of the Digital age in South Africa,and has been recognised, with three prizes from the Durban Film festival.

Best SA Feature film
Best Cinematography
and the Audience Prize

SABC 2 is proud to be linked with such a successful venture and as it is only the beginning of the road for this film Forgiveness, greater things can be expected from it. Viewers who miss Forgiveness on the big screen can see it on SABC 2 later on in the year, on December 16th. Also look out for future DV8 projects, also in partnership with SABC 2. SABC 2, your South African family channel.
Contact information: Bame Moremong
(011) 714-5998

Thursday 15th July
Robust Business for Forgiveness
Now in its fourth week of theatrical release around South Africa, Forgiveness has grown from strength to strength showing a marked increase in box office returns and audience growth. Forgiveness opened to solid figures on the 25 th of June, but it?s platform release around the country since then has seen it exceed expectations with a remarkable upturn in audience demand and box office gains.
It seems this positive trend can be attributed to positive word of mouth, repeat viewings, and increasing media attention. ? We're receiving exceptionally good word-of-mouth support for the film" said director Ian Gabriel, " Our increasing box office and the popular acclaim audience award given to Forgiveness both prove that South African audiences do want to see quality International South African Films".
Forgiveness was directed by Ian Gabriel, written by Greg Latter, and stars Arnold Vosloo, Zane Meas, Denise Newman, and Quanita Adams. The film is currently playing at six theatres around South Africa (Cavendish, Rosebank, Brooklyn, the V&A Waterfront, Eastgate and Nu-Metro?s Canal Walk). Bookings and Showtimes are available through Computicket.
Locarno elects Forgiveness
The Locarno International Film Festival, its 57 th edition and one of Europe?s finest, held in Switzerland from the 4-14 of August has selected Dv8?s Forgiveness in main competition, announced its festival director Irene Bignardi. This marks a significant landmark for the local industry since Forgiveness is the first film from South Africa to feature at the festival in the prized main competition category.
Forgiveness will vie for the Golden Leopard with 17 other competition entries from all over the world including France, Vietnam, Kazakhstan and Belgium. ?We?re absolutely delighted and honoured that Forgiveness is been considered in such good company. Locarno is one of the most important festivals on the circuit. It?s the perfect platform for Forgiveness?s International Premiere?, said Executive Producer Jeremy Nathan.
Toronto offers North American Premiere
Forgiveness will also receive its North American Premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival as part of the National Cinema Programme , launched this year, which focuses on South Africa. Billed ? South Africa: Ten Years Later?, the program includes another Dv8 film in the shape of Teddy Mattera's Max and Mona. Already Forgiveness has won awards in International competition for Best Film, Best Cinematography, as well as the coveted Audience Award at the Durban International Film Festival.

Arnold's Angel