- When my daughter started asking questions, I felt that I needed to go back, if only to ask for forgiveness to Angola, says filmmaker Marius van Niekerk. He took this atonement journey, which became the documentary "My Heart of Darkness."
African night sky weaves anguished memories and tares up the mental wounds, but suddenly, around a campfire, lit also sparks of hope. During the journey tells Marius of his war crimes. And the nightmares, alcoholism and violence that became his companion.
- My first assignment was to guard a buffer zone and suddenly we found ourselves in the fire-fight. When all was over, it appeared that there were only women and children, although no civilian was suppose to be in the area. It was quickly repress and collective debt was replaced with a strange feeling, like after winning a rugby match.
He entices the others to open up and bear witness to horror and vile abuse. The journey ends with everyone going through a cleansing ritual where they burn Samuel's uniforms and Marius worn cardboard box with photographs and stale memories.
- She has done a fantastic job and it's great that reconciliation efforts in Africa noted. Leymah said very wisely, among other things, that every individual has the responsibility for their actions. There is of course more or less debt. For example, in the awful events of 1970 - and 80-century Angola.
- They have not gone through a healing process, just as in South Africa and Liberia, and soldiers from the liberation movement and the guerrillas are still living in hiding in fear of revenge. Ordinary people, but also military, accusing the government for what happened. At the individual level, however, little has happened, says Marius van Niekerk.
After two years he decided to desert, to escape the madness and not have to fight against his countrymen. Instead he was forced to go underground and parents were subjected to threats. When his name appeared on a death list, he decided to leave South Africa. And so, on a kibbutz in Israel, met the war-weary soldier, a young Swedish.
Love brought him to a chilly but peaceful country in northern Europe and he became the father of two daughters. All the time he fought against his demons and trying to hold them back with too much alcohol. He was aggressive and tense and could identify with American Vietnam veterans when he saw a film about their post-traumatic stress. He realized that the number of specialty psychologists were limited. So he started his own self-help groups, and finally came to a point where he realized that the only way out of the darkness was returning to ... the darkness.
It took three years to find fellow passengers before the boat headed straight into the Angolan jungle in desperate search of apocalyptic self- purification. Marius van Niekerk has also had time to process his identity as a white South African.
- I was ashamed of my background when I came to Sweden and while hated the old generation - my parents, church and government. As a “boer” he received a stern, Calvinist upbringing on the family farm outside Bloemfontein. The indoctrination was that apartheid was the obvious norm and that all freedom fighters were communists and should be annihilated.
- At one point I told my parents that the man they hated and called our worst enemy, Nelson Mandela, would one day become the president. They were upset and did not talk to me for many years. But it’s gotten better and they changed their attitude, even if they are worried about the current developments in the country. The next film project called "City of Joy-the raped women, their rapist & healers in DRC" focuses on eastern Congo and the monumental cruelty to women of all ages are exposed to.
- I have spent weeks interviewing victims who tell horror stories, girls with their genitals torn. I want to confront offenders, often young boys, with what they've done. Somehow I want to access the mechanisms that underlie these barbaric atrocities.
Soldiers who rape and desecrates and patriarchal societies that turn out victims. Is it possible to forgive, and it is really reconciliation we want, at every possible price?
- Society must take responsibility and create justice. Whether the it’s possible to forgive is placed on an individual basis. One thing is certain, we men have much to work with.