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Mandela’s Children, Brighton Dome Concert Hall, May 6
Mandela’s Children offered a rare personal glimpse of arguably the world’s most public figure.
In the first-released footage of Kemal Akhtar’s debut feature film, Nelson Mandela was candidly interviewed by the people who were perhaps denied the most during his 27-year imprisonment – his grandchildren.
Akhtar captured them posing the questions they’ve never before had the opportunity, or perhaps the nerve, to ask.
The results spanned topics as irreverent as, ‘Who was your first girlfriend?’ and as touching as ‘How would you like to be remembered?’
The interviews were overlaid with black and white footage still fresh from the initial edit process and often bearing copyright labels.
Iconic shots of his release from Robben Island and lesser-known stills of his wedding day were artfully woven by editor Gregers Sell, celebrated for his craftsmanship on the acclaimed 2011 documentary Senna.
Despite the drizzle, Brighton Dome’s floor was filled with an audience eager to hear from the unique discussion panel that came together to debate the film.
Arguably the most moving insights came from his grandchildren Ndaba Mandela and Kweku Mandela, the film’s producer.
They shared what it was like to first meet their legendary grandfather in prison.
Their most poignant reflection was whether Mandela could ever really recapture the personal relationships he was denied after almost three decades of separation.
Their answer was that, while he tried, ultimately time wasn’t on his side, a fact that weighed heavily on his conscience.
Accompanying Kweku and Ndaba were the film’s director Kemal Akhtar and actress Dame Janet Suzman, who grew up under Apartheid Johannesburg.
The final panel member was Kathi Scott, the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund who has worked with Mandela for more than 15 years.
She explained that, while his legal training created a diligent, meticulous time-keeper, his natural charisma meant pre-prepared speeches were always discarded for off-the-cuff inspiration.
Irish-born Scott said Mandela’s only criticism was her lack of patriotism (as she didn’t accept nearly enough of his whisky).
The film and the panel provoked much discussion about what enduring message or spirit should linger after such a legendary political figure has gone.
It was summarised most succinctly during the Q&A section of the evening, when a crowd member asked what feelings their grandfather bore towards Margaret Thatcher (who infamously referred to Mandela as a terrorist).
Kweku’s answer encapsulates much of Mandela’s attitude towards life and his hopes for the new South Africa, in that while he certainly does not forget such wrongs, he ultimately always forgives.
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