I have been thinking a lot lately about forgiveness: of oneself, of those who have wronged us, and of all the little things we cannot let go of. Then yesterday I saw “Fambul Tok,” Sara Terry’s documentary about reconciliation and forgiveness in Sierra Leone, and I was humbled.
If you don’t remember, Sierra Leone was at war from 1991-2002. Rebel groups trying to overthrow the government committed atrocities including hacking the limbs of people, kidnapping children and forcing them to kill, mass rape, and other things too horrible to mention here. You may remember that "blood diamonds" were used to fund the war. The world captured and is prosecuting Charles Taylor for his role, but the government of Sierra Leone gave blanket amnesty to all but a handful of men who led the carnage.
“Fambul Tok,” or “family talk” involves bringing accuser and accused face to face before the community in order to heal. One admits their crime and asks forgiveness of the person wronged. If the person forgives, the community becomes whole again. For a war that broke communities apart, it is an incredible example of grace.
Sara Terry has been shining a light on what happens AFTER war for many years now with her work from Bosnia and her Aftermath Project. This is her first film. Along with cinematographer Henry Jacobson, they visited Sierra Leone at least a half dozen times in the company of John Caulker, the founder of "Fambul Tok," to let these African people tell their own story. It is at once overwhelming and beautiful.
None of us will ever experience anything even close to what the people of Sierra Leone have suffered. But the amazing ability of these incredible people to forgive brought me to tears over and over again. They have a strength I can only hope for.
I can’t let go of this film, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The final showing is tomorrow, Tuesday Nov. 8 at 11:30, at the IFC Center in the West Village. Don’t miss this documentary. It’s extraordinary.
You can purchase a DVD and a book of the story here. To find out more, go here I recommend you do both, and then invite your friends to watch with you. This is what grace looks like.