REHABILITATION: A touching story of the power of forgiveness that poses difficult questions for the families of murder victims - and the perpetrators.
Nick Holdsworth
Journalist, writer, author, filmmaker and film and TV industry expert – Central and Eastern Europe and Russia.
Published date: January 30, 2020

Populist politicians the world over love to fire up voters with phrases such as «tough on law and order», «lock ’em up!», and «we’ll put them behind bars and throw away the key».

It’s good for business if you are a right-wing rabble-rouser. It fires up the emotions of the majority who prefer to not think, to not question.

Far from easy

John Webster’s unsettling film Eye to Eye takes a stonier path. The award-winning Finnish documentary director – who produces through his own company – follows the story of three people who have lost children or siblings to murder.

Born in Finland in 1968 to parents who had moved to the country to teach English, Webster brings an almost anthropological distance to his story and its subjects.

In a Finnish prison, where lifers are nearing the end of their sentences for violent crimes (a relative rarity in Finland, but still the Nordic country of 5.5million people records 100 homicides a year), a special restitution programme brings inmates together with their victims relatives in an attempt to bring healing to both sides.

It has «bleeding heart liberal» scrawled all over it, but as Webster’s film shows, approaching the consequences of violent crime in this way is far from easy.

First, we meet a mother whose teenage daughter Pia died a horrific death weeks after being doused in petrol and set on fire by her boyfriend in a silly dispute over a stolen bottle of vodka. Webster reveals the agonising details slowly – starting with the incompetent local police who fail to inform the victim’s parents before a nurse from the intensive care unit calls to enquire why they are not at their daughter’s bedside.

It’s good for business if you are a right-wing rabble-rouser.

The sheer horror of losing a loved one to murder; the hatred that grows in a parent’s heart for the killer; the aching incomprehension of all the unanswered questions creates a wave of secondary victims from one, brief, violent act.

Then there is Ville, who was bludgeoned to death by a friend acting in cahoots with the 17-year-old’s stepfather. Ville’s biological father is more bewildered and guilt-ridden than hell-bent on revenge: by the time …

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