'Journey' comes to light

April 01, 2000

Greg Risling

The reaction has been nearly identical at every screening Peter and Linda

Biehl have attended.

In New York, no one moved. In South Africa, a group of college students

gazed in awe. In Park City, Utah, the crowd didn't budge while they tried

to compose themselves.

The credits roll and fade to black, but audience members don't leave


their seats. The fortunate few who have seen the award-winning

documentary, "Long Night's Journey Into Day," have been emotionally

wrought by its dramatic story line: four cases in which truth and

forgiveness quell the hatred and contempt in racially divided South


The movie will make its West Coast debut Wednesday in Newport Beach,

where the Biehls lived when their 26-year-old daughter, Amy, was killed

seven years ago. The slaying by an angry mob in a South African township

is one of the film's cornerstones.

"We were almost speechless when we saw the movie," said Peter Biehl, who

traveled with his wife from Cape Town, South Africa, in January to watch

the film at the renowned Sundance Film Festival in Park City. The movie

won the prestigious Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the two-week


The Biehls said they were blown away.

"The story is so powerfully told," Peter said. "It's not just about Amy.

It's about the struggle of others that really resonates with people."

The screening at the Newport Beach Film Festival marks the fourth time

the film has been shown publicly.

Amy Biehl was killed in August 1993 when she was driving a group of

friends to their homes in the township of Guguletu on the outskirts of

Cape Town. The idealistic Fulbright scholar had traveled to Africa after

graduating from Stanford University and was helping register voters for

the country's first all-race elections the following year.

She encountered a mob shouting anti-white slogans. She was pulled from

her car and bludgeoned and stabbed to death as she lay in the street.

In a strange role of race reversal, Amy was killed because of her skin


Five years later, the men who killed her appeared in front of the Truth

and Reconciliation Commission, asking for amnesty. The commission, which

deals with the four cases in the film, was formed in order to allow

confessions to abuses during the country's apartheid era that pitted the

white-minority government against black militants.

The commission pardoned the four killers, who were serving 18-year prison

terms for Amy's murder. Her parents supported the commission's decision,

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