YLS to Screen Documentary on the Life of Human Rights Activist Albie Sachs

A new documentary profiling the life of lawyer and human rights activist Albie Sachs and the dramatic events in South Africa during the apartheid regime will be shown at Yale Law School on Tuesday, October 7 from 4 to 6 pm in Room 127.

The screening of Soft Vengeance: Albie Sachs and the New South Africa is open to the public and a question and answer session with Visiting Professor Albie Sachs and filmmaker Abby Ginzberg will follow.

The film spotlights Sachs’ life set against the dramatic events leading to the overthrow of the apartheid regime in South Africa. His story serves as a prism through which to view the challenges faced by those unable to tolerate a society founded on principles of slavery and disempowerment of South Africa’s majority black population, according to the filmmaker Abby Ginzberg.

“I look for subjects who have had a big influence on me personally, have devoted their lives to fighting for justice, have made their mark on history but are not well known to the general public,” said Ginzberg, noting that she met Sachs in the mid-1970s when he first came to the United States to garner support for the anti-apartheid movement.

“Albie made a deep impression on me then and became a strong personal link to the anti-apartheid work I was already active in.”

Ginzberg made her first trip to South Africa in 2009, and over coffee with Sachs, she said a light bulb went off with an idea to do a film about his life.

“What has surprised me about the film, which I expected would introduce U.S. audiences to someone they were not familiar with, is that the film also introduces South African audiences, particularly young people, to Albie and other activists they have never heard of,” added Ginzberg. “And being able to provide access to their story through this film has been one of the hidden blessings of the project."

The documentary looks at Sachs’ life as a young man defending those committed to ending apartheid in South Africa. For his actions as a lawyer, he was imprisoned in solitary confinement in Cape Town, tortured through sleep deprivation and forced into exile. In 1988 he was blown up by a car bomb set by the South African security forces in Maputo, Mozambique, which cost him his right arm and the sight of one eye, but miraculously he survived and after a long year of rehabilitation in England, he recovered. Returning to South Africa following the release of Nelson Mandela, Sachs helped write the new Constitution and was then appointed as one of the first 11 judges to the new Constitutional Court, which for the past 20 years has been insuring that the rights of all South Africans are protected.

Today, Sachs is a Visiting Professor of Law and Gruber Constitutionalism Fellow at Yale Law School. He continues to write, speak, and teach around the world, sharing the South African experience of healing a divided society.

Ginzberg has been producing and directing award-winning documentary films for nearly three decades. Her work has focused on character-driven stories, racial and gender discrimination, and social justice issues. Her films have been screened at film festivals and broadcast on public television networks nationally and internationally.

The screening is co-presented by Yale Law School and the Center for Dispute Resolution at Quinnipiac University School of Law. For more information on the film, visit www.softvengeancefilm.org.