COLONIALISM: Hung on the cross of history: pain and regret stalk veterans of a controversial South African military unit in Boris Gerrets' biblically-structured Lamentations of Judas.
Nick Holdsworth
Nick Holdsworth
Our regular critic.
Published date: October 25, 2020

Director Boris Gerrets takes a well-known and controversial story – that of the Angolan mercenary-staffed South African 32 Battalion, known as ‘The Terrible Ones’ – and turns it into a tale of forgiveness and redemption.

Opening in a conventional documentary style – with archive footage of Angolan independence celebrations in 1975 and the swift descent into the civil war that marked the end of colonial rule in the former Portuguese colony, Gerrets seeks to tell the story of a battalion used with violent effect by white South Africa during the struggle to end apartheid, through the prism of the last days of Jesus, betrayed by Judas before his crucifixion.

In the service of others

A hybrid docu-fiction, Lamentations of Judas, is a powerfully unsettling take on the dangers of viewing history through a single lens. Today, surviving members of ‘The Terrible Ones’ eke out their lives in Pomfret, a remote town centred on a now-abandoned asbestos mine on the edge of the Kalahari Desert. Pomfret had been the 32 Battalion’s base and the semi-derelict site remains the last resting place for many of the old soldiers in its austere and drably graveyard strewn with dappled ochre and brownstones.

Reviled …

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