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Sat May 28 04:08:48 SAST 2016

'Mandela's Gun' film is wide of the mark

Leonie Wagner | 22 February, 2016 00:08
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. File photo
Image by: Sunday Times

It's a multimillion-rand film about Nelson Mandela and his infamous gun. But, like the weapon, it's still missing.

The film, first scheduled for release at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, is nowhere near hitting the big screens and is courting controversy, with a South African heritage trust claiming it is being snubbed by its producers.

Adding to the confusion about its release date was the announcement last week in Johannesburg, by Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini, that the film Mandela's Gun will premiere next month.

The gun, believed to be a semi-automatic Makarov pistol valued at R22-million, was a gift from Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie.

The announcement has taken the film's producers - Jeremy Nathan, Moroba Nkawe and Clare Evans - and the Liliesleaf Trust, owner of the farm at which Madiba is said to have hidden his firearm in the 1960s before his arrest, by surprise.

Nathan told The Times that the film was still in production.

"We hope it will be ready by June and that we will be able to premiere it at the Durban International Film Festival."

The chairman of the Liliesleaf Trust, Nicholas Wolpe, said: "Secrecy breeds mischief and leads to conjecture and concern. We [the trust] were led to believe it was to be released two years ago. Because of our naïvety, we lost control of it. We thought we were partners, but we were out-manoeuvred. It slipped through our fingers.

"We are not saying we wanted complete control but we would have liked to be more involved, given that Liliesleaf is a central feature of the story."

Wolpe and the other trustees read a draft script two years ago.

Wolpe said: "This is a wonderful story ... the rough version was brilliant, factually accurate and captivating.

"But I can't believe that, two years down the road, the film is still not ready."

Asked about the delays, Nathan blamed the logistics of filming in many locations.

"The film was shot in Algeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania and Botswana. Now suddenly everyone wants to be part of it," said Nathan.

Production was announced in 2013, and it was said then that it would be the first local film in which a South African actor would portray Mandela - actor and television presenter Tumisho Masha.

The drama-documentary is based on Mandela's statement after his release from prison that he had buried a gun at the farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg.

Set in the 1960s, the film follows Mandela on trips to various African countries including Ethiopia, in the eight months before his arrest in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal.

Funding for the R10-million film came from private investors, South African government departments, African governments and the SA-UK artistic exchange programme.

Lisa Combrinck, spokesman for the Department of Arts and Culture, said the release date was announced in her department's parliamentary briefing.

"[But the producers] might have wanted to do a special screening for parliament."

The Times has learned that the National Film and Video Foundation has already given a private screening.

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