When Archbishop Desmond Tutu invited me to film his life and work, I thought I was going to be making a film about justice. But he had a different intention: to persuade the world to forgive the unforgivable.
- Karen Hayes, Filmmaker
THE FOOLISHNESS OF GOD: A Forgiveness Journey with Desmond Tutu takes viewers on a dramatic global journey revealing Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu’s process of promoting forgiveness. Following Tutu intimately, the filmmaker and audience are thrust into an uncomfortable world where Tutu asks that atrocities be forgiven. But as Tutu challenges traditional notions of justice, personal lives are impacted in unforeseeable ways.
Forgiveness may seem stupid in the eyes of the world, but it’s the “foolishness” of God, which is wiser than the world.
-- Desmond Tutu
Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate and the Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, was an instrumental leader in the dismantling South African apartheid. His use of nonviolent tactics such as mass marches, boycotts, and sanctions helped the county avoid civil war. In 1995 President Nelson Mandela appointed Tutu to chair the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
I met Desmond Tutu in the 1980s on the lawn of All Saints Pasadena, the progressive church that was a sanctuary for South African activists. Later, I traveled with a group to South Africa to meet anti-apartheid leaders and make further plans to support the Movement. It was there that Archbishop Desmond invited me to film his work.
My awareness of Desmond Tutu had been as a powerful religious figure that wore elegant purple bishop’s robes while demanding justice from white-supremacist leaders. However on our first shoot in 1995, I witnessed him asking Rwandan genocide survivors to forgive their slaughterers, which perplexed and daunted me. “Where was justice?” I wanted to know.
My journey with Desmond Tutu ended up leading me, camera in tow, all over the world: from regal and Presidential locations, to remote villages and urban shantytowns where histories of pain and outrage still haunt. I interviewed perpetrators of unspeakable violence as well as survivors who exemplified dignity.
Along this journey I discovered the paradox that “the Foolishness of God” that Tutu speaks of is actually the wise act of letting go. Tutu sometimes says, “Forgiveness is the highest form of self-preservation.” I am now persuaded that it is also the pre-cursor to global preservation.
Born in October 7, 1931, Desmond Mpilo Tutu was appointed as the first Black Anglican Bishop of Johannesburg, one month after winning the Nobel Peace Prize. The following year he was elected archbishop of Cape Town, which made him the head of the Anglican Church with a 1.6 million membership in South Africa. During apartheid he was a leader of the Mass Democratic Movement, which effected change using nonviolent strategies such as sanctions, boycotts and peaceful demonstrations. After chairing South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he co-founded the Elders: Independent Leaders Working Together for Peace and Human Rights. He has authored many books for adults and children, including, The Book of Forgiving
John Allen was press secretary to Archbishop Desmond Tutu and led media relations for The Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He is the author of many books, including Tutu's authorized biography, Rabble Rouser for Peace.
Paul Erasmus was a South African security police officer whose job it was to surveil and harass Desmond Tutu and other anti-apartheid leaders. He testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about dirty tricks and violence perpetrated by the police and received amnesty.
Dr. Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela served on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. She is a clinical psychologist, professor and the author of the acclaimed book, A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness.
Thulani Grenville Grey was the counseling psychologist for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and was responsible for the mental health needs of both staff and testifiers. He currently serves as an HIV/AIDS educator in South Africa.
Antjie Krog is an acclaimed poet and journalist. For two years she reported on South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Her 1998 memoir of that experience, Country of My Skull, was made into the feature film, In My Country.
Cynthia Ngewu’s son, anti-apartheid activist Christopher Piet, was murdered by South African policemen in the Guguletu Seven incident. Cynthia testified before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and reconciled with the police informant responsible.
Sponsorship and film credit opportunities are available.
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You can donate online at Fractured Atlas.
If donating by check please send to:
New Vision Partners, Attn. Tutu Film
2750 E. New York Dr.
Pasadena, CA 91107
We are grateful to all who have supported the film. We hope you will join the team!
The Ford Foundation
Corky Hale & Mike Stoller Foundation
Paul & Margaret Lacey
Edgar & Myra Hayes
Catherine & Jim Dillavou
Joan Goldsmith & Ken Cloke
Janet Cunningham, MD
Brenda & Bill Galloway
Rev. Frances Hall Kieschnick
Northrop Diversity Fund
Pacific Pioneer Fund
Dinah & Bill Roberts
Don Thomas, MD
Ferne Hayes & Ann Bishop
Jim Hayes & Cathy Keig
Rick and Myrna Kidd
Pasadena Interracial Women’s Club
Frances E. Williams Artist Grants/
Spirit of Paul Robeson Grant
Lisa & Eric Callow
Jennifer Hayes Silvers
Dr. Ernest Hayward
Russ & Hannah Kully
Meryl Marshall Daniels
Ralph & Betsy Perry
Gerry Puhara & Russ Ferrante
George & Mary Regas
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