A most unusual tale in South Africa’s post-apartheid era, “Gerrie & Louise” is a document of love, redemption and transition. Focusing on the relationship between a former officer in the country’s hit squads and the journalist who investigated the ruthless and covert operation, the film smoothly incorporates the ability to change and forgive even among those who have good reason not to forget. Pic should ring up solid TV sales and some limited specialized theatrical play.
Film examines the work of the country’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission. Former journalist Louise Flannigan is an investigator for the org, whose unique purpose is to have onetime soldiers, politicians and the like come forward to confess past crimes. The aim is not to punish but to heal, to create a catharsis in the process.
By way of preparation, filmmakers interviewed Gerrie (pronounced “Ha-ree”) Hugo, a top army official, to provide graphic testimony about the venal police activities of the prior regime. The irony is that he and Louise, two people representing extreme factions, wound up becoming a couple — a microcosm of what the new government hoped for in coming generations.
Director Sturla Gunnarsson and editor Manfred Becker arrange the potent material in a way that embraces victims and perpetrators alike. Among those seen are a woman whose husband was murdered by hit-squad members, a former activist and torture victim, and one of Gerrie’s seemingly unrepentant former colleagues.
What sets “Gerrie & Louise” apart from numerous other recent docus and reports on the new South Africa is its openness to the resilience of the people it observes, regardless of their political persuasion. It takes a moral high road without being predictably judgmental.