In this August 1958 file photo, South African ANC leader Nelson Mandela leaves the synagogue, being used as a court in Pretoria, at the end of the day's proceedings during the first treason trial. Photo: Schadeberg

THE YEAR 1962 was politically a thriller for South Africa – the media were warning that the Black Pimpernel was set to return.

Nelson Mandela was touring African states, learning the guerrilla warfare he hoped to bring home.

In Ethiopia, he was presented with a semi-automatic Makarov pistol, reportedly on the instructions of Emperor Haile Selassie.

When Mandela returned to the MK hideout at Liliesleaf farm, he buried the gun. Shortly afterwards, he was arrested and imprisoned.

It’s this eight-month window into Mandela and South Africa’s story that is the focus of a feature documentary that will begin shooting in the country next week.

The film, directed by British director John Irvin, also boasts the first South African actor to star as Mandela. The film will combine acted content with archive material, and snippets of interviews with people from around Africa who met Mandela on his journey.

Film producer Claire Evans, of DEARHEART PRODUCTIONS, said it was significant Mandela had chosen to bring this gun back to South Africa.

“To add to the pressure he was under, carrying the gun all that way. And then to bury it deep into the ground at Liliesleaf, it must have held great meaning for him,” said Evans.

The film’s team, which includes South African production company DV8 Films as co-producers, has spent the past three years travelling to countries Mandela visited to collect interviews.

The film also aims to emphasise the role of Liliesleaf, in Rivonia, an MK hideout during the Struggle, where Mandela wore blue overalls and posed as a caretaker under the alias David Motsamai.

“Liliesleaf should be acknowledged. If tourists from around the world go to Robben Island, they should also go to Liliesleaf,” said Evans.

The film will be shot on location in Ethiopia, Botswana and Tanzania and have a fully South African cast.

Evans said it would include previously unknown stories and form an epic reconstruction of that period.

“It’s an extraordinary story of African unity, of countries trying to help bring about a liberation Struggle,” she said.

Evans said they were not trying to compete with Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the feature film that follows Mandela’s life.

British actors Idris Elba and Naomie Harris, who play Mandela and his ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, are in South Africa to promote their film, to will be released in the country on November 28. - The Star


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