Mpho Tutu talks about Forest Whitaker portraying her father in new film

2018-10-05 07:23
Forest Whitaker as Archbishop Desmond Tutu in The

It has been twenty years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) concluded. Academy-award winning director Roland Joffé’s new film, The Forgiven is a fictionalised account of Archbishop Desmond Tutu's efforts as the head of the commission. Channel24's Leandra Engelbrecht spoke to Archbishop Tutu’s daughter Reverend Mpho Tutu van Furth about the movie.

Cape Town – Roland Joffé's new film, The Forgiven revisits South Africa’s violent history and the legacy of apartheid. 

Based on the play The Archbishop and the Antichrist by Michael Ashton, it is a fictionalised story of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s search for answers during the TRC. 

The first time Mpho heard about the movie was when the producers came to speak to her father before they started working on it, she tells Channel24 during a telephone interview. 

“They came to talk to him about the story that they wanted to tell and that it is a fictionalised story but my dad’s role couldn’t be fictionalised so to speak. He said, well it’s a work of art what am I going to say don’t make your art?

“He thanked them for the courtesy of asking him. With that said he was very supportive of the story they wanted to tell.”

Other than reading the script beforehand and giving some feedback about a few things, Mpho and the family had no involvement in the film. 

Mpho Tutu and Desmond Tutu.

(Reverend Mpho Tutu van Furth and Archbishop Desomond Tutu. Getty Images)

The drama follows Archbishop Tutu, played by Academy-award winner Forest Whitaker, and his struggle morally and intellectually, when a member of the former apartheid-era hit squad Piet Blomfeld, played by Eric Bana, writes him a letter pleading for clemency.

Speaking about Whitaker’s portrayal of her dad, she says he did an amazing job.

“There were some mannerisms and actions of holding his face that he actually caught to a tee.”

About the film, she says that in the end it wasn’t a story about her father, but that it was a story about South Africans and the courage of the ordinary people in our country. 

Mpho remembers attending some of the hearings with her parents particularly the ones in Worcester.

“It was a searing time and it was a really wrenching time for us as a country and at the same time a very hopeful one too.”

Forest Whitaker in the movie The Forgiven.

(Forest Whitaker as Archbishop Tutu in a scene in The Forgiven. Supplied)


Although fictional, The Forgiven is an important film as it captures the country’s history and the anti-apartheid movement which is still largely untold.

In 2017 there was Kalushi, which tells the story of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu and in 2013, Anant Singh's Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom which Mpho says is one of her favourites.

“I think that it was a story that was told with such incredible sensitivity.”

About the importance of telling these stories, she says there is an increasing urgency as there are so many untold stories of our past.

She explains: “If we do capture and tell these stories they can help to shape a very different kind of future. There is a danger of losing touch with our history.

“We have really got to a point where we so narrowed what the story of South Africa was and what the anti-apartheid movement was and how many people were involved and how many people had such immense courage and not just the people whose names get on to the front pages of the newspaper.

“There are so many people who really gave so much for our freedom and I think that it is urgent that we really do claim those stories and we tell those stories.”

With this movie Mpho hopes that viewers will understand how huge the gift of forgiveness is.

“I hope people take account of what this new South Africa has cost and that we should be further along as a country because this freedom came at a really high price.”

Eric Bana in the movie The Forgiven.

(Eric Bana plays Piet Blomfeld in The Forgiven. Supplied)

The Forgiven opens in selected cinemas nationwide of Friday, 5 October.

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