The film, based on a book by Antjie Krog, stars American Samuel Jackson as a Washington Post reporter and Frenchwoman Juliette Binoche as a South African poet and journalist who are covering the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings. 

The TRC, set up under former president Nelson Mandela, allowed victims and perpetrators of the campaign of violence by the white minority government to confront each other and shed light on the country's brutal legacy. 

Jackson's black American journalist questions the legitimacy of a body that ultimately offered amnesty to more than 11,000 perpetrators of atrocities in exchange for publicly telling the
truth about their actions. 

Binoche portrays a liberal Afrikaner forced to confront her own culpability in South Africa's dark past. 

Their sparring over justice and the prospects for peace between blacks and whites gives way to a love affair that expose prejudices neither knew they harboured. 

Birth of a nation

British Director John Boorman, who won Oscars for Deliverance and Hope and Glory, said although the ultimate impact of the TRC remained controversial he was impressed by the extraordinary effort South Africans made toward creating a multiracial democracy. 

Nelson Mandela has set an
example of reconciliation

"It is a fascinating country to be in because it is like being at the birth of a nation. This is a nation that is only 10 years old," Boorman said. 

"It makes you realise when you stay in South Africa that we all rather live in consumer societies where there is no ideology. In South Africa, everything is ideology. Everybody is involved, everybody takes a political position. The debate is extremely stimulating." 

He noted that the TRC's example as a vehicle for redemption was serving as an example in countries as Bosnia and being considered for Iraq. 

US producer Robert Chartoff said he was drawn to the script because it offered lessons that would transcend national borders. 

"At last there was something that I read that relates not only to the South Africa problem but it is essentially a universal one," he said. 

"As far as America is concerned, rather than approach evil with 'An eye for an eye' or 'Bring them on,' which has now become a famous statement by our president, this was a different kind of approach: the question of dealing with evil through reconciliation, through forgiveness." 

Reconciliation

"It makes you realise when you stay in South Africa that we all rather live in consumer societies where there is no ideology. In South Africa, everything is ideology. Everybody is involved, everybody takes a political position. The debate is extremely
stimulating." 

John Boorman,
director

South African actor Menzi Ngubane, who plays a TV sound engineer in the film, recalled the impact of Mandela's example of reconciliation. 

"I remember that day when our former president Nelson Mandela came out from jail. In his first speech in Cape Town he said, 'Comrades I greet you all in the name of peace'," Ngubane said. 

"And us as the youth were so angry and we thought he was crazy. But for him to say, 'Let's sit down to talk' and to have the TRC in South Africa was a good thing." 

The festival has singled out South Africa for special focus this
year, a decade after the first free elections in the country. 

A series of documentaries called Project 10 and produced by
South African broadcaster SABC1 are being showcased in the
festival's Forum section and singer Miriam Makeba has been invited as an honourary guest. 

Country of My Skull is one of 23 contenders for the Golden
Bear prize at the 54th Berlinale. Cate Blanchett was to present her competition entry, the mystical Western The Missing, on Saturday.