The Mercury: Inspiring movie centred on forced removals

Inspiring movie centred on forced removals

July 26 2011 at 10:36am

A documentary that shines light on unconstitutional forced evictions and a new generation of born-free struggle leaders, is to be seen today as part of the 32nd Durban International Film Festival.

Dear Mandela explores the inspiring story behind Abahlali BaseMjondolo, the largest movement of the poor to emerge in post-apartheid South Africa.

The documentary will have its world premiere at Durban’s Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre at 6pm today as part of South Africa’s longest-running film festival, which continues until Sunday.

Today, 150 Abahlali BaseMjondolo members will watch their remarkable story unfold on the big screen, telling of how they stood up to protect their community against the Red Ants, bulldozers, assassination attempts and forced removals, eerily reminiscent of the apartheid-era.

Abahlali BaseMjondolo – Zulu for “people of the shacks” – won a landmark victory in the Constitutional Court in 2009 to overturn The KwaZulu-Natal Elimination and Prevention of Re-emergence of Slums Act, which legalised mass evictions within informal settlements.

Dear Mandela is directed by American Christopher Nizza and KwaZulu-Natal-born Dara Kell.

Nizza and Kell are recipients of Participant Media’s Outstanding Filmmaker Award, representing Africa, and put their lives at risk to develop the film project, with support from the Sundance Institute and the National Film and Video Foundation.

The documentary is beautifully shot by cinematographer Matthew Peterson and co-produced by South African Neil Brandt of Fireworx Media (uGugu noAndile, A Lion’s Trail).

Says Kell: “Abahlali BaseMjondolo won a victory, but it’s a partial victory. Every few weeks we still hear of a new community being evicted, usually where they don’t know their constitutional rights.

“The story is far from over and we hope our world premiere will kickstart an essential national conversation.”