“Freedom is what you do with what has been done to you.”
Three different countries and one case of deadly violent each. Three men who have killed and three families who have lost a beloved one. In our standard idea of guilt and punishment this means three who get punished and three who are meant to forget. No way to imagine the two sides will ever get closer. The film tells three times the impossible story: To meet your enemy, in thoughts, in messages, in real life. In Germany, in Norway, in the US.
BEYOND PUNISHMENT tells the stories of Leola, Lisa and Sean, of Erik and Stian, and of Patrick and Manfred. The people involved in these three life-changing acts of violence have still not found peace – neither the victims nor the offenders. Years after judgements are made and sentences served, both sides are still searching… This journey into the inner world of violence and punishment begins in a Wisconsin prison. It is in this maximum-security facility, where those responsible for violent acts are usually shut away from society for decades, that something unique is taking place. Every six months, 30 detainees meet the victims of crime, and they do something that would not otherwise happen: they talk to each other. Director Hubertus Siegert gets to know Lisa and Leola, whose brother and son was killed years ago. Starting with their story, the film draws a bow from the US to Norway and Germany. Three crimes in three different cultures, three legal systems, and different ways to come to terms with trauma. The film enters new territory by positing that the pain of loss can be overcome by something other than retaliation and punishment. The concept of Restorative Justice is led by the idea of understanding the other, to know what led them to commit the crime, and that such an encounter is possible and helpful. The film examines this notion sincerely via these three cases. All the film’s subjects have a helplessness in common when dealing with their experiences of crime and loss. The film examines the need for forgiveness and the inner conflict this wish brings about. What does it mean to forgive? Does it mean forgetting and finally accepting a crime? Would that be a betrayal of the beloved, the victim of the crime? Is there an alternate concept of forgiveness? BEYOND PUNISHMENT is a film that fundamentally challenges our ideas of guilt and punishment.