Mandela’s Gun to open Joburg Film Festival


Mandela’s Gun will have its world premiere as the opening night film at the inaugural Joburg Film Festival on 28 October 2016.

A unique hybrid of spy thriller and documentary, Mandela’s Gun tells the story of the Makarov pistol Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie gave Nelson Mandela as the ANC shifted strategy towards armed resistance.

Tumisho Masha plays a young Mandela, the revolutionary who co-founded uMkhonto we Sizwe in the aftermath of the Sharpeville massacre.

Tasked with building an army before he had even fired a gun, Mandela left South Africa for military training in Algeria and Ethiopia. Traveling on false passports, he became known as the Black Pimpernel as he evaded capture and assassination attempts during his African odyssey, which also took him to Botswana and Tanzania.

He was South Africa’s “most wanted man’ but Mandela’s Gun is a reminder that he was also considered a threat in Washington as “the most dangerous communist leader operating outside Russia.’ Mandela’s Gun explores the CIA’s role in Mandela’s arrest and imprisonment, with exclusive testimony from a CIA agent who claims responsibility.

“This is one of the last great untold stories of the struggle,’ says the film’s producer Moroba Nkawe. “It’s the story of the first weapon of the armed struggle against Apartheid, and of a Mandela who has more in common with the angry youth behind #feesmustfall than the icon of reconciliation he later became.”

As Denis Goldberg says in the film, “There comes a time in the history of a people, where you live forever on your knees or you die standing.’

SAFTA winner Masha is sensational as the first South African to play Mandela as a lead role in a major film; his nuanced performance will make you wonder why it’s taken 22 years since democracy before a local actor was trusted with the iconic role.

The impressive all-local cast also includes SAFTA nominee Zethu Dlomo as WinnieMandela; SAFTA winners Nick Boraine and Meren Reddy as Cecil Williams and Ahmed Kathrada respectively; and multi-award-winner Desmond Dube as Govan Mbeki.

Director John Irvin is known for the BAFTA-winning TV series Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, with Alec Guinness, and war films like The Dogs of War, with Christopher Walken, and Hamburger Hill, with Don Cheadle and Dylan McDermott.

Co-written by Malcolm Purkey and Athos Kyriakides, Mandela’s Gun is set in the early 1960s. Irvin has shot the docu-drama like a spy film from that period, with Lance Gewer (Tsotsi) lensing in stylish black and white and Abdullah Ibrahim especially composing distinctive African-jazz for the soundtrack.

Mandela’s Gun was filmed on location in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and London, as well as Algeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, and Tanzania – a reminder of how Mandela was shaped by the surging African Liberation Movements of the early 1960s.

Dramatised historical re-enactments are intercut with interviews with the giants of the Struggle, like Dikgang Moseneke, Dennis Goldberg and Tokyo Sexwale, who weigh in with eye-witness accounts and their perspectives on the merits of armed resistance, reminding viewers of the ANC at its best and all it once stood for.

“South Africans think they know the story of Nelson Mandela,’ says Nkawe. “But Mandela’s Gun is going to leave audiences rethinking their view of him, more aware of South Africa’s debt to the rest of Africa, and less trusting of America, who not only refused to even meet the ANC after they were banned, let alone intervene, but kept Mandela on their terror list until 2008.’

DearHeart Productions (UK), Delimanzi Films (South Africa), and Agence Algerienne pour le Rayonnement Culture (AARC) produced Mandela’s Gun over a five-year period as the first ever British, South African and Algerian co-production.

Mandela’s Gun premieres on 28 October 2016 at The Zone at Rosebank with a second screening at Maponya Mall in in Soweto on 29 October.

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Cera-Jane Catton is a writer and journalist with years of experience in community newspapers, blogging and freelance journalism. She has worked in a cache of capacities, often finding herself behind or in front of the cameras, intentionally and less so. She has been a stunt double in two Bollywood movies, has worked in various capacities on a number of natural history documentaries, and other international productions shot in South Africa. Cera is a former Screen Africa journalist.


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