Dear Mandela is unlike any activism documentary you have ever seen. It takes tough questions, of the pressures that historical burdens place on young people, and of political legacies, and does a thorough examination of them. The film is more than just a documentary about the inequalities prevalent in South Africa, and this is where it excels. In one part of the documentary, members of the activist groups face violence threats and are exiled from their residence in Kennedy Road. They relocate to a safe house located near Durban’s port where they come to the realization that things are better on the other side.
Dear Mandela is a bold documentary that dares to narrate the growing anger against the African National Congress, and its leader, Nelson Mandela, by a young generation that feels disappointed and betrayed by a government that promised to serve them. In many ways, Dear Mandela sticks to the classic documentary script; on the one hand, cunning politicians are depicted promoting their policies and talking neutered, sugared statistics in front of the camera. On the other hand, are committed activists who are tired of the lies and seek to show just how empty the statements by politicians really are. The documentary sheds light on the dangerous lives activists lead. Violent scenes in the shack show thugs threatening to murder members of the activist group and destroying their houses, an occurrence that is overlooked by police and downplayed by the politicians claiming that they are unaware of any such occurrences.
It is a common juxtaposition in documentaries about politics, yet this documentary is keener on the self-imagined almost demi-god status of the African National Congress in South African Politics, and its leader Nelson Mandela, an untouchable, almost Jesus Christ-like figure. Can you really criticize a public figure like Mandela? From the silence that filled the crowd when Mawi was giving his speech, it would appear not.
Interweaved with these instances of honest and bold film creation are splendid sequences adding another layer to the narrative. You will feel as though the filmmakers have shifted a filter and exposed a different world. A little slowed down kaleidoscope sequence depicts the slow and intimate gesture of a normal day in Kennedy Road, revealing a different aspect of informal settlements that are rarely shown.
In a beautiful ending, one of the protagonists in the film proclaims that someone needs not be old to be wise, which is why people need to show their character in their youth. Dear Mandela is an insightful and beautiful documentary of the increasing role that young people play in shaping the politics of a nation that does not abide by the status quo.…
In the middle of the documentary, Mazwi Nzimande, one of the protagonists in Dear Mandela is rallying a crowd. He is wearing a red T-shirt which is a trademark of the Abahlali baseMjondolo organization. He seems nervous and gazes down as picks up the mic to address the crowd. When he begins to speak, he does so with a lot of vigor and enthusiasm which rubs off on the people. He lets the people gathered know that they are fighting for what is rightfully theirs and that they should not allow anyone to disrespect or discriminate against them on the basis that they are shack dwellers. The crowd is moved by his speech and is filled to the brim with enthusiasm answering Mazwi’s calls with unity and determination. Mazwi is a member of a group that has been persistently championing the rights of shack residents living in the informal Kennedy Road settlement located on Durban’s outskirts. At ease and encouraged Mazwi chants against the Africa National Congress, but the chant is followed by an excruciating silence from the crowd. This particular scene seems to sum up what the documentary revolves around.
As viewers, writers, and readers we are accustomed to narratives that remind us of the struggles that the African National Congress and what activists went through during the apartheid period. It is an impossible history to ignore, and one that is a little too hard to bear. The documentary, Dear Mandela, silently questions without uttering a word, whether the African National Congress’ history is now obscured by immorality and corruption. For Mazwi Nzimande, who comprises a rising generation of young people who are politically savvy, the African National Congress is not the untouchable lion it once was. What was once South Africa’s liberator has now become a failing government, which is a frustrating phenomenon to many South Africans. Many young people feel let down and betrayed. The documentary takes the 1994 government into a review and examines the promises that were made to South Africans when the African National Congress ascended to power and whether they have been delivered.
To the activist group Abahlali baseMjondolo, championing the right for people to dwell in informal settlements without fear of violence or eviction or being chased by collections is essential. Promises have been repeatedly ignored or broken by the government. They protest against the Elimination & Prevention of the Re-Emergence of Slums Act, specifically Section 16, which makes it legal to destroy informal housing or shacks, and immediately evict people dwelling in such settlements. The activist group sues the government demanding the repeal of Section 16 with immediate effect due to its unconstitutional nature.…
The film Dear Mandela is about efforts by a housing rights group in South Africa and narrates how new injustices have taken the place apartheid once enforced. The documentary is directed by Christopher Nizza and Dara Kell, who attentively stick to the standard script of narrating activist accomplishment. Some stinging moments combined with a momentous historical backdrop play a crucial role in lifting the documentary. In the documentary, a group known as Abahlali baseMjondolo comes to the aid of shack Dwellers in Durban, who are at the mercy of a proposed law that would see them get rapidly evicted. Aside from the poor transit camps located far away from the center of the city, replacement housing does not occur. Police representatives and the Government whitewash and stonewall; Demonstrations develop solidarity and strength, but they also attract intimidation and counter-demonstrations. The comedown of South Africa from post-apartheid has for a while now been eminent. However, Dear Mandela effectively highlights the generation shifts as well as the exclusion forces that have emerged. Challenges brought about by urban development occur across the globe and are something that most people can relate to. The supporting role played by Nelson Mandela’s party, the African National Congress, is in some ways a unique disappointment, particularly for the guides, a youth leader who goes by the name Mazwi. The documentary was relatively successful and has garnered many accolades since its release. The documentary garnered the Best South African Documentary Award as well as being nominated by the African Movie Academy for the Best Documentary Award. The film also garnered the Best Documentary Award, the Grand Jury Prize, and the Grand Chameleon Prize at the Brooklyn Film Festival. The documentary film has also screened at various film festivals including One World International Human Rights, Camden International Film Festival, as well as Movies that matter where the documentary film garnered the prestigious Golden Butterfly Prize.
When the government in South Africa decides to do away with the slums and starts to evict shack residents from their living premises, 3 friends residing in a massive shantytown in Durban resist the eviction. It is here in the shacks that their journey to South Africa’s highest courts begins as they follow Madiba’s example and become leaders in their own right inspiring many others in their wake. The three boys comprise a mischievous shopkeeper, Mnikelo; An Aids orphan, Zama; and an enlightened schoolboy, Mazwi. The three are part of a growing number of people who feel betrayed by Madiba’s party, the African National Congress, who have broken promises they made to the people. Committed to bringing the eviction to a house they hold meetings with members in their community through candlelight and came to the realization that the new Slum Act law had made evictions legal and violating the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution of South Africa. With the aid of lawyers working on pro bono, the three were able to challenge the Slum Act all the way to the Constitutional Court of South Africa. However, for any extraordinary achievement to be had, there must be a price to pay and the circumstance of the shack residents was no different. As the portrait of the beloved Madiba beams down from shack walls and school room chalkboards, Mnilenko, Mazwi, and Zama learn about the sacrifices that one must make as a leader. Government repression, shack demolitions, and assassination attempts are some of the challenges that test their commitment in their quest for justice. By turns funny, devastating, and inspiring, the documentary provides a unique perspective about what young people can do to bring about change in the political space, and is an exciting picture of the coming of age of South Africa.…