"STIRRING...evocatively shot, lucidly edited" - VARIETY
Through excellent cinematography, co-directors Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza ensure there is also a sufficient level of comic relief to make it both poignant and enjoyable...It’s a story of disappointment beautifully told and not to be missed..Although they never glamorize or airbrush over the poverty of the shantytown, the filmmakers and lenser Matthew Peterson stress its vibrant color and sense of cohesion. The activists' enthusiasm and belief in justice, tested by the attacks but reanimated in the film's closing moments, resonate with peculiar force within the hard-won new democracy of South Africa.
– Reviewed by Ronnie Scheib, Variety
"Gripping, eye-opening" - CITY PRESS
Humanizes the nameless protesters we see on the news hurling bricks at the police through a haze of teargas....What is most striking about Dear Mandela is its ability to capture life in Kennedy Road without prettifying it or horrifying it – without the tinged wide-angle or the shaky camera. We move through schools, initiation ceremonies, shack fires, evictions, onto taxis, into courtrooms, to illegal electrical wirings, through Gulag-like transit camps of tin shacks and – jarringly – to swanky casinos where government housing bosses sip champagne and congratulate themselves. Dear Mandela doesn’t purport to bring you both sides of the story with scientific accuracy. Instead it purports to show that the “dangerous” masses are people with emotions and dilemmas, lives and dreams like you and me. Perhaps most important of all, it shows what happens when youths take their destiny into their hands the way the ANC youths of old did. It is a call to action as much as it is an indictment of a government that has lost its way."
- Charl Blignaut, City Press
"Beautiful" - AFRICA IS A COUNTRY
“This isn’t just another good documentary about activism. It takes these questions — of political legacies, of the pressures of the historical burdens on younger generations — and examines them. ‘Dear Mandela’ dares to document the rising bitterness against the ANC, and its figurehead — Nelson Mandela — by a generation of young people who feel let down by their government. These are people like Mazwi, who are determined to “write a new Long Walk To Freedom, one that takes into account the lives that have been lived in the shacks” and the broken promises of the ANC. Can you criticize Mandela? The silence in Mazwi’s speech shows that people are uneasy doing so, and find it difficult to separate Mandela from the ANC. Is it too soon? ‘Dear Mandela’ is asking. Interspersed with these moments of bold and honest film making are truly beautiful sequences that add another layer to the story, as if the filmmakers had shifted a filter, and a different world is exposed. Kaleidoscopic sequences a little slowed down reveal the intimate and slow gestures of the everyday in Kennedy Road, and uncover another rhythm to the informal settlements. The colors jump, the movements are graceful and moving in the delicacy of their capture. These moments affirm the importance that the people in the difficult conditions of Kennedy Road are a part of something, and are willing to fight together. In a beautiful end sequence, another young protagonist of the film says “You don’t need to be old to be wise. That is why we need to show our character while we are still young.” True indeed, and ‘Dear Mandela’ is a beautiful and insightful portrait of how young people are trying to define a new politics that does not follow in the long shadow cast by an increasingly problematic ANC leadership.
- Basia Lewandowska Cummings
"A surprisingly strong and impacting documentary that depicts the current climate of the first South African post-apartheid generation, who have found themselves suffering at the hands of the African National Congress....sensitively handled by filmmakers Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza, who choose their subjects wisely and don’t sentimentalise the situation. With Dear Mandela, they have managed to capture the essence of community among the people, incorporate occasional humour and highlight the shared energy and determination that comes with youth, to stand up and make a difference."
A SHACK is still a home — and one community’s courageous fight for the right to continue living in their makeshift dwellings is captured in the moving documentary Dear Mandela.
- Estelle Sinkings, Natal Witness
What educators are saying:
“Dear Mandela is a colour-saturated and vivid story of young people organising themselves into a protest movement against forced evictions, relocations and their impoverished conditions. In the year that the African National Congress celebrates its 100th anniversary, the name of Nelson Mandela will be invoked many times to affirm and reaffirm the righteousness and timeliness of South Africa’s liberation from an oppressive apartheid system. Dear Mandela is a different kind of invocation – it does not seek to merely remind the audience of the end of apartheid and the sacrifices that were made to bring that about. It is a reminder that the end of apartheid was also the beginning of promises: starting with Mandela’s “never again” and culminating in the “better life for all” message of recent elections, South Africa’s poor have been promised a place in the new South Africa and it is time to deliver. Dear Mandela is the best kind of expression of what these promises mean to a young generation, who were probably too young to vote in the first election of 1994, but are old enough to know how to read the Constitution and the rights enshrined in it. Dear Mandela is their cri de coeur and manifesto. For anyone wanting to understand how the voiceless and powerless make their demands known, Dear Mandela is a must.”
- Hlonipha Makoena, Columbia University, Author of Magema Fuze: The Making of a Kholwa Intellectual.
Marie Huchzermeyer, Author, Cities with ‘Slums’: From Informal Settlement Eradication to a Right To The City In Africa:
“Filmmakers Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza sensitively capture how everyday life in an informal settlement intersects with the threat of eradication. Dear Mandela touches us with the doubts, fears, reflection and courage of members of the Abahlali shack dwellers movement in Durban in their resolve to defend a new democracy against its custodians’ resort to apartheid era legislation against informal settlements. In the depth of the backlash that the Kennedy Road community endured, this documentary leaves us with questions that few have dared to ask about the new South Africa”.
"Inspiring" - Hackney Citizen
"Enthralling" - Sihle Mthembu, Mahala Magazine