Director: Marlou van den Bergé | Time to play: 66 minutes | Year: 2023
An apology isn’t really an apology once more words follow “I’m sorry.” “I’m sorry you feel that way”, “I’m sorry it happened.” Klaas de Jonge, a freedom fighter in the eyes of some and a terrorist in the eyes of others, is almost a false apology incarnate. But since all the misery he caused was in the name of fighting Apartheid, it’s hard to make a final judgment on whether it was good or bad. the price of freedom let the ball roll.
In 1985, Klaas de Jonge was arrested in South Africa on suspicion of arms trafficking. He pretended to cooperate and give the police a tour of the crime scenes he was involved in, but once at the Dutch embassy, he ran to the lobby to seek cover. It wasn’t until 1987 that he came out of that building again. This documentary shows what the effect has been on others involved.
Conversations with the sons (step) of Klaas take up most of the time in the first half. Nothing is said literally, but it’s clear that the now grown family has quite a few scars that everyone revolves around. For example, one stepson recounts that as a teenager he was regularly sent to Africa to see if his car had been bombed. Shocking, but Klaas dismisses it as nothing.
Van den Berge increases the pressure in the second half by having even more visitors in the studio, as agreed by Klaas, who was brave enough to cooperate. The misguided bombing he was involved in is a time of much debate, and rightly so. Due to poor planning, the explosives went off too soon and not only one perpetrator was accidentally killed, but many innocent civilians were also hit.
Like the wife and daughter of the man who was at the bomb, two people who thought he was just a taxi driver. The widow tells Klaas that she was arrested and tortured for three months. “Oh, that’s annoying,” Klaas says, apparently without any empathy. A South African who had to look after him in his ‘cell’ asks him why the freedom fighters attacked a building full of civil servants on a street full of civilians, instead of a military institution. Klaas replies that they saw people walking around in uniform, and that was enough.
The man also asks him if he doesn’t regret what he did, after seeing the photos of the damage and the innocent victims. No, Klaas has no regrets. He immediately uses World War II as a plot. One of the highlights is when another visitor asks how he’s doing and Klaas says, “Fine. I’m just having trouble walking.” Who is that visitor? A man who lost his legs in that attack and is in a wheelchair.
Towards the end, the children speak again, and everyone has apparently realized that Klaas doesn’t hear or see what he should be hearing and seeing. There is no turning back, the words are now direct and harsh. His own children call him a narcissist who could only talk about himself, a man who seems to be completely lacking in empathy. Claus disagrees. But after many “Sorry about that” a sincere apology finally comes out.
Apartheid was wrong. A serious violation of human rights. The opinion of people who disagree with her is worthless. But Klaas sometimes talks as if he were a victim of Apartheid, rather than what he really was: a white man who hated it so much that he participated in the violence. He tells one person that he supports his actions, he tells the man in a wheelchair that violence is never the solution.
Klaas has been gone since May 5th. But this documentary is something you can be proud of, because it’s not easy to get upset in public. But the message that emerges is essential: the means do not always justify the end, however noble it may be.
Klaas de Jonge, the Freedom Prize can be seen in Home NPO.