Fanta Regina Nacro, the first female director in Burkina Faso, is the creative force behind this uneven yet striking drama about the challenges of reconciliation in the aftermath of internecine conflict. Set in an unnamed African country torn by a ten-year civil war, the film centers on a feast designed to unite the two warring tribal factions in a new era of peaceful co-existence. But old hatreds die slowly, if at all, and the challenge to forgive and forget is often too far from the grasp of those gathered for the feast.
“The Night of Truth” uses brief explosions of gruesome violence to underscore the brutality of African-style civil war, with severed limbs and decapitated heads floating down a waterfall and the genitalia of young boys cut from their bodies by leering soldiers. There is a great deal of talk about torture and mutilation, and several children in the film are missing legs and fingers (the film’s press kit does not explain if the youngsters are survivors from an African conflict). The film’s climax, which cannot be revealed here without spoiling the plot, provides a chilling reminder of the problems that arise in seeking of forgiveness from those more interested in revenge.
Unfortunately, the film has long periods of sluggish verbosity that dulls the boiling drama. Much of the talk is repetitious, with canned homilies on peace and endless grumbling about the atrocities committed by the “other side” – at least 15 minutes of such scenes could’ve been cut from the film. And more than a few performances from the largely non-professional cast are painfully flat and obvious.
But even if the film is too loose around the edges, it nonetheless offers a harrowing reminder why peace remains an elusive commodity in today’s world.