The Forgiven: Mpho Tutu Speaks on the Film and What It Means to Her Father’s Legacy

Forest Whitaker as Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Forest Whitaker as Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Photo: Saban Films

The motion picture The Forgiven was released in theaters March 9 with an expanded release on March 16 that includes video on demand and digital HD. The movie, from Saban Films, stars Forest Whitaker as Archbishop Desmond Tutu.


The plot, a blend of fact and fiction, focuses on what happens after Tutu is appointed head of a nationwide investigation as part of the postapartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission. According to the synopsis, “he’s summoned to a maximum-security prison by a notorious murderer seeking clemency [played by Eric Bana]. Inside the brutal prison walls, Tutu is drawn into a dangerous, life-changing battle with the cunning criminal.”

Recently, The Root had a chance to speak with Mpho Tutu, Desmond Tutu’s daughter and spokesperson.


While neither Mpho nor Desmond Tutu himself played a role in the film getting made, Mpho was approached by the filmmakers to see if her father would give his blessing to the making of the film.

Desmond Tutu stated that he understood it to be an artistic work, and as such was the work of the artist, whether or not he gave his blessing. He was grateful, however, to be asked for his blessing, Mpho says. Desmond Tutu did see the film and was really pleased with the story, his daughter says, and ultimately endorsed it as a story well told.

Mpho also feels that the story was very well told.

“It’s a work that is a mixture of fact and fiction,” she told The Root. “The people who are portrayed in the film are made up of many strands of South African stories. My father is recognizable as my father because he played such a pivotal role in the commission, and Mr. Whitaker portrayed him quite masterfully. I thought it was a really beautiful film and it told a really important story.”


Because the tale told in The Forgiven is made up of the strands of several stories, most of the people portrayed in the film are amalgams of several people. Still, for Mpho, there are pieces of the story that are very familiar: “The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a large part of the life of South Africa, so that piece of the story was very recognizable.”

Mpho also believes that the film does her father’s legacy justice.

“One of the things that is striking about my father’s legacy is that he was able to bring the stories of courage of so many South Africans into public view. What is most potent about his legacy is that he got to be a spokesperson for so many heroes and heroines. That comes through in the film,” she said.


Although the film puts her father at the forefront, Mpho says it’s important to remember that there are many people with important stories that don’t get told.

“Although my father’s role in this film looms large, it soon becomes evident that the real heroes and heroines of this story are those who are often called the little people—people who are so often forgotten and whose names we don’t know. The people whose stories we may sometimes ignore—they have a crucial lesson to teach all of us about real courage, about genuine generosity and about true forgiveness,” she said.


Mpho hopes that many people will get a chance to view this film and allow it to touch their lives.

We here at The Root hope for the same.

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.

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I honor Desmond Tutu as a cultural hero and will make a point of seeing this film. His response is characteristically thoughtful and humble. A shining light to emulate.