Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those … ‘

Published October 1, 2007

In the film Forgiveness: Stories For Our Time, director Johanna Lunn takes on the subject of, yes, forgiveness. Timely indeed, as the world struggles with an impossible war that was meant to avenge 9/11, a terrorist attack of unspeakable proportions. We are all in it now and none of us sure about how and when it will end, and perhaps most importantly, where the justice is in all this.

Forgiveness, which won the Best Mid-Length Documentary Award at Hot Docs 2007, features interviews with four engaging and articulate victims of violent crimes. Following Chaim Potok’s dictum of “the most personal being the most universal,” Ms. Lunn focuses her camera on individuals who have each, we soon see, travelled to the brink of hell and are now back to tell the rest of us how they are coping.

Canadian Leslie Parrott, whose 11-year-old daughter Alison was raped and murdered in 1983, relives the days following Alison’s disappearance. The mother talks about a haze of shock and pain that, even in the earliest days, did not change her fundamental belief in forgiveness.

Next, we meet Alan McBride, who lost his young wife in Northern Ireland in an Irish Republican Army bombing in 1993. All these years later, Alan is in a relatively good place, but still harbours anger and resentment as he devotes his life to helping others in similar circumstances.

Rev. Julie Nicholson is an Anglican priest in Bristol, England. Her daughter, Jennifer, was killed in the infamous July 7, 2006 subway bombings in London. Julie, like Alan, is filled with anger, and believes that her feelings are appropriate. Quitting her parish post after the bombing, Julie made headlines in England as “The vicar who couldn’t forgive.”

Finally, we meet Anne Marie Hagan, a Newfoundlander whose father was brutally murdered by a schizophrenic neighbour. When Anne Marie is able to finally forgive, she finds that she herself is set free. What might have seemed cliche stuff seems to take on a new meaning here – Anne Marie’s insights are fresh and vulnerable and the viewer feels drawn to her story.

[pullquote]Who among us has not speculated about our own capacity for violence and for revenge? When we hear or read about unspeakable crimes – crimes against children by sexual predators, crimes of terrorism and acts of random violence that claim the lives of innocent people, we feel outraged. We wonder what we would do if that were our child gone missing, our loved one lost to violence. How would it be possible to live on, to do everyday tasks after such devastation?

Ms. Lunn’s film addresses these and other critical questions dealing with forgiveness. While the film feels choppy and unfocused at times, it certainly leaves the viewer with something to think about. Each of the four individuals in the film underwent a process of healing and forgiveness, with varying degrees of “success.” This multi-layered take on the issue at hand is a credit to the film’s depth. The stories presented to the viewer are real in every sense of the word, and this film is worth a look.

For more information on how to obtain a copy of Forgiveness, please contact the NFB at 1 (800) 267-7710 or visit

Lisa Barry is senior producer for Anglican Video.


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