We look back at history because the past becomes a mirror, helping us to see our modern selves more clearly. In the same way, looking outside of our own country can help illuminate, challenge and re-frame. The documentary Dear Mandela, which I made in South Africa together with my husband and co-director Christopher Nizza, will air for American audiences on public television for the first time on Tuesday, January 29, 2013. It is part of the 2013 season of the documentary series AfroPoP: The Ultimate Cultural Exchange.
Mazwi and Reverend Mavuso, speaking at the Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary on the final night of their 2-week U.S. visit. The discussion was very engaging as folks contemplated how to forge a meaningful solidarity between struggles in the U.S. and the Abahlali movement in South Africa.
Thanks to all those who braved a sweltering Sunday night to see our latest 17-minute cut and listen to Mazwi and Rev. Mavuso talk about the Shack Dwellers Movement. Every seat was taken, the discussion was deep, the questions were probing, the answers were insightful, and there was even some back and forth debating between audience members...now that's what we love to see!
We’re very excited to have one of the characters from ‘Dear Mandela’, the teenage community leader Mazwi Nzimande, in New York this week. ‘Dear Mandela’ is a documentary currently in production about young people living in South Africa’s slums, who are trying to halt the forced evictions leading up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Please come out to see the shack dwellers in action, hear about their work and find out how you can support their struggle and get involved with anti-eviction struggles right here in NYC.
Even though the film is still in production, our outreach work has already begun. Our team is committed to using DEAR MANDELA to strengthen social movements around the world. Our youngest character Mazwi Nzimande has been invited by the Poverty Initiative to travel to the United States and join more than 160 leaders from across the country and around the world as they gather for a week in Charleston WV to study together, teach one another, and to work towards Reigniting the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign Today.
We’ve just wrapped up our first round of principal photography on Dear Mandela. The last few days flew. We interviewed Government Housing Spokesperson Lennox Mabaso to find out what local government thinks about the Shack Dwellers’ Movement and their Slums Act case at the Constitutional Court. We visited Lamontville aka ‘Silver City’ (named for the shiny corrugated iron it’s made of) which is one of the hundreds of new transit camps being built across the country. This is where those awaiting government houses are kept, often after being forcibly removed from their shacks.
Today was a very special day for us. We got to hold a camera workshop for a group of very talented young people who are one day going to put us so-called professional shooters/editors/directors out of a job. We started with a sneak preview of a 4-minute video about the Slums Act case at the Constitutional Court, which Chris put together literally overnight. It got us going about how important it is for the shack dwellers to be telling their own stories to the world, when their story is so often under-reported and ignored by the news media here in South Africa.
It’s 5 in the morning and we’ve just returned from the Constitutional Court in Jo’burg. Two days ago, 80 shack dwellers (and us) traveled overnight by bus to Jo’burg. After seven hours of singing, praying and not much sleeping, we arrived at the Constitutional Court – the highest court in South Africa. The shack dwellers were there to ask the Constitutional Court judges to declare the ‘Slums Act’ unconstitutional.