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Lamentations of Judas (2020)

Black Angolan soldiers, known as 'The Terrible Ones', once fought white South Africa's colonial wars as part of the notorious 32 Battalion. Repatriated to South Africa at the end of the ... See full summary »


Boris Gerrets


Boris Gerrets
1 nomination. See more awards »




Black Angolan soldiers, known as 'The Terrible Ones', once fought white South Africa's colonial wars as part of the notorious 32 Battalion. Repatriated to South Africa at the end of the 1980's, some of the ex-combatants still languish in the ruins of Pomfret, a former asbestos-mining town remotely situated at the edge of the Kalahari Desert. When the town's dilapidated buildings turn into a film-set and the ex-soldiers become actors in the Biblical story of Judas Iscariot, it prompts a confrontation with their past. Pivoting between Biblical myth and present-day reality, the film pulls into focus the paradox of being both perpetrator and victim. It reflects upon the notion of betrayal and free will, while providing a compelling view of those at the margins of history. During the course of the film, the prevalent voice of Judas eventually merges into the voice of the filmmaker, interrogating the fundamentals of human existence.

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Clever remix with re-enactments of New Testament and interviewing former mercenaries. About "free will", betrayal, and regrets over past actions in war time
1 September 2020 | by JvH48See all my reviews

This movie was the opening film of the Movies That Matter Festival 2020 in The Hague. In March it was cancelled due to Covid-19, but later made available online and augmented with an after-talk via Zoom. The description did not attract me at the time the festival program was published, but I stand corrected now. It proved to be a clever remix of New Testament re-enactments, interviewing former mercenaries, and several other ways to discuss the concept of "free will", betrayal, and regrets over past actions in war time.

A recurring discussion, for instance, was about the Chain of Command in an army hierarchy, and particularly how the concept of "free will" fits in (or not). It made clear that soldiers are not persé guilty when executing a task assigned to them, even when reluctant to do what they are told, as long as telling who sent them and when they have no means to escape or to refuse (mostly the case for soldiers). Also, the term Betrayal appears here in two distinct forms: on one hand, the mercenaries were supposed to act against their brothers while being commissioned by the Apartheid regime, while on the other hand these former soldiers were abandoned without pay and without future after having served many years. The term Betrayal applies to both, despite very different.

A very proficient way to raise all such issues was conducting interviews with these soldiers, each starting with asking for name, rank, serial number and which bataljon they served in. All sorts of topics pass by, mostly provoked by specific questions, sometimes arising spontaneously along the flow of the conversation. These interviews are placed at random moments in the movie's running time, not always directly related to what we see on screen yet always pertinent and relevant. It works out perfectly as an overall wrap around the issues that the film maker wants to raise. Not all questions were answered, some seemed even impossible to answer even in hindsight, but still contribute to the context in general.

A means to enlighten us with some history lessons is provided by open-air classroom sessions where a "teacher" behind a blackboard tells his "pupils" (no children, just fellow soldiers) about the mechanisms of the war they had their role in, about countries and institutions involved, and how things developed for better and for worse. The maps on the blackboard are very crude, and I have my doubts that all historic "facts" were accurate. Nevertheless, yet another way to provide for some context, implicitly binding the movie scenes together.

Re-enactments of parts of the New Testament covered part of the Holy Week, between Palm Sunday and when Jezus was captured in the garden of Gethsemane. We see, during the Last Supper, that Jezus sort of selected the one who was to betray him (he who I now give the bread, will betray me). Judas is clearly not happy with this task. He wanders around while being unable to sleep, but Jezus comes to support him by emphasizing that it is the will of God that the story runs this way. Anyway, Judas seems different from the inherently bad guy like he is displayed in general, but rather an executioner of a divine assignment.

All in all, despite the description of the movie did not pique my interest at the time, I now stand corrected. This movie is much better than its synopsis. You have to watch it to appreciate its richness of contents. The issues covered apply to many situations. Even more so nowadays. The people shown on screen may seem mildly interesting on themselves, but in combination and placed in the proper context by the film makers, the issues raised are thought provoking and will make you re-think later everything said.

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Release Date:

6 August 2020 (Netherlands) See more »

Also Known As:

Das Klagelied des Judas See more »

Filming Locations:

Pomfret, South Africa

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