The Forgiven

Racist. Prisoner. Murderer. Child of God.

The Forgiven
When Archbishop Desmond Tutu is appointed as head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he’s summoned to a maximum-security prison by a notorious murderer seeking clemency. Inside the brutal prison walls, Tutu is drawn into a dangerous, life-changing battle with the cunning criminal. The film is not based on real events.

120 minutes.
No persons under 18 (Language, Violence, Prejudice).
Drama, Thriller, On the art circuit
I always look good in purple.
I always look good in purple.


Forest Whitaker, Eric Bana, Jeff Gum, Morné Visser, Thandi Makhubele, Terry Norton, Rob Gough, Debbie Sherman
Roland Joffé
ScreenplayMichael Ashton, Roland Joffé, from the play by Michael Ashton
MusicZethu Mashika
CinematographyWilliam Wages
EditingMegan Gill
Made in2017
Produced byLight and Dark Films, Jeff Rice Films, LB Entertainment

IMDB page | CommonSenseMedia Report
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Film and Publications Board (FPB) Report (SA)

GenreDramatic thriller
LanguageFrequent very strong impact intense language used to swear, insult and demean. Also used in aggressive contexts.
NudityIsolated low impact show of buttocks in a non-sexual context.
ViolenceFrequent strong impact physical and psychological violence. Physical violence is often brutal and results in blood-letting.
PrejudiceFrequent strong impact racially-based prejudice, including derogatory language.
Drug abuseNone
CommentsThe dramatic thriller “The Forgiven” explores a number of negative themes of race relations and racial conflict, crimes against humanity, assassinations, prison gangs, hatred, prejudice, Apartheid, racism, killing plots, cruelty, politically motivated killing and murder. These themes are very complex and mature, and very likely to be confusing, upsetting and distressing to children, particularly within the South African context where the pain and hurt of Apartheid is still very present, and with racial tensions still being an explosive issue. Themes dealing with prison gangs, racism, killing, hatred and prejudice may not only be morally misleading to children, but some may also prematurely expose them to adult experiences and cause psychological, moral and emotional harm. Admittedly, the film also contains artistic, dramatic and historical value, and contain positive themes dealing with forgiveness, reconciliation, regret and confessions, as well as positive messages promoting forgiveness to start a process of healing and peace. These latter positive pro-social considerations are however aimed at a cognitively and morally mature audience, who will comprehend and benefit from them, without being unduly negatively influenced by the more negative themes and their presentation (including strong impact prejudice). Although cognitively and with regards to moral development, children of 16 and 18 years are very close developmentally-speaking, the themes and their presentation, require a level of moral development, approaching Kohlberg's autonomous level which even some adults have not yet reached. This film requires adult judgement and responsibility. Apart from the elements such as language, including words of a very strong impact, such as the Afrikaans “p**s”, “n****r” and the word c**t, and strong impact prejudice (with the derogatory use of the word k****r used continuously throughout the film), which require an age rating of 18 years as per the legal perscriptions in the classification guidelines, the impact of themes and these elements need to be viewed within the present South African context. The committee considered the recent cases involving racially derogatory language, such as those involving Vicky Momberg and Penny Sparrow, which show that although this film takes place in a historical context, racial conflict is far from eradicated. The racial division which these incidents create, as well as the context surrounding the debate around land expropriation, result in a need for a level of adult maturity and responsibility in which to view this film. Although the committee acknowledges the merits of this film, and pro-social messaging, the protection of children, particularly in the context of recent incidents of racial conflicts at schools, received great consideration. Cumulatively, the film has a very strong impact. An age restriction of 18 years is therefore recommended to protect younger viewers from moral, psychological and emotional harm, as the film contains aspects appearing to advocate hatred based on race (although in historical context, still very relevant in particularly the South African context today) and descriptions of torture (based on reports of true events).
These details are supplied by the FPB. If you have a problem with any of the above, please take it up directly with the FPB. Read the Classification Guidelines.

CommonSenseMedia Report (USA)

Suggested age limit
16 +
Positive messages
Positive role models
Drinking, drugs, smoking


Scale (Max)20

What the Critics say

Cape Argus / The Star
Orielle Berry quote iconPlaying Tutu is no mean feat.
Gabi Zietsman quote iconWhile there are many problems with The Forgiven and will irk many South Africans, it’s still a worthwhile watch just as a reminder about our history, and that these wounds are still festering today.
9 critics
Rottentomatoes critics
22 critics
Rottentomatoes tomatometer
Michael Ordona quote iconBrutal violence, adult themes in post-apartheid story.

What the People say

Rottentomatoes users
114 users
900 Netizens
The Movie DB

Average .. 57%



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