Phenomena of Guilt
Guilt has been an important philosophical, religious and psychological topic since ancient times and is not limited to the extreme experiences of war, violence and crime. Everyone knows the experience of guilt – in our personal lives as partners, parents, children, friends, colleagues – feeling guilty for something we did or failed to do, intentionally at the time, or accidentally. In this documentary we want to focus on the experience of guilt, moral injury and forgiveness in the context of war.
Often guilt doesn’t have a voice – and those dealing with it can find themselves trapped in an inner hell. They might be too ashamed to talk about it or haven’t found anyone willing to listen, and thus haven’t been able to listen to those who have been harmed by their actions either. And for the victims it can impossible to understand why the perpetrators don’t see their pain and apologize for the suffering they have caused, if they don’t understand the prison of guilt. In giving both sides a voice they can start to hear and understand each other.
The movie will explore questions along the lines of:
– What is the price of guilt, individually and collectively?
– What is the difference between guilt, shame and remorse?
– How can we continue living once becoming guilty has changed our life forever?
– What is the relationship between post-traumatic stress and moral injury?
In the United States military suicides have increased since the start of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Many veterans who are struggling upon returning are affected by PTSD, with ‘moral injury’ and guilt being discussed as one of the leading causes of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Veterans might feel guilty for not having been able to safe another service member and suffering from survivor’s guilt, but others are suffering from having acted against their own deeply held moral beliefs, having been ordered to or participated in unnecessary acts of violence, such as killing civilians. What is needed to come to terms with the guilt caused by the destruction of one’s core moral identity, to move forward and heal? Forgiveness? Self-forgiveness? A deeper understanding? What is the first step? Who/what can help?
Are guilt and victim consciousness limbo states which prevent healing and reconciliation? How were many Vietnamese victims able to forgive and why is forgiveness less common in the West? How did Germany as a country deal with the guilt of the Second World War and the Holocaust? Why is Bosnia, 20 years after the end of the bloodiest war since the WWII, still paralyzed by division, enemy images, blame and guilt?
This documentary does not attempt to give the answer, but instead it gives a voice to the voiceless and takes a look at the facets of guilt, and the individual struggles, journeys and in some cases healing and redemption through this destiny.
Guilt is an inner torture and can get a person or whole country stuck in hatred, self-hatred or denial. But it is possible to feel remorse and wish that one had acted differently without getting trapped in the self-punishment of guilt. By allowing and feeling the intensity of real pain underneath the guilt it is possible to come back to life again and also to start seeing the other side as humans again, have empathy for what they went through and learn from the past to create a better future.
The focus is not on those who started the wars and profit from them and who don’t have any sense of guilt, but on those who believed in it and then wake up to feeling guilty about their actions and involvement. This documentary aims at exploring the different paths of healing and support people find, that in some cases even lead to beautiful acts of reconciliation and mutual support between perpetrators and victims.
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