Film makers on Winnie movie: Did we do Mrs Mandela a disservice? Let the people speak

2014-02-27 17:28

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Some 1 500 moviegoers are expected to fill the Ster-Kinekor cinema complex at Maponya Mall in Soweto tonight to see the film, Winnie Mandela.

But Winnie Madikizela-Mandela will not be among them.

At a special screening last night in Rosebank, director Darryl Roodt and producer Andre Pieterse said they would have liked to host Madikizela-Mandela but their efforts to get her to attend came to naught.

“We invited Mrs Mandela and her family to the premiere. Unfortunately they have not accepted the invitation. What happened was the media release was issued three days ago that you all read and we hadn’t made a public statement concerning that release, we believe the best way to respond is to have the media come to the premiere in Soweto,” said Pieterse.

“We were never given the opportunity to address any of Mrs Mandela’s questions about the film or about the book because she merely made the statement that she disassociates herself from the film because we never consulted her.”

By contrast, Madikizela-Mandela did attend the premiere of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.

In the statement, she says: “Unlike Long Walk To Freedom, this film is based on an UNAUTHORISED biography whose producers did not deem it fit to consult me or my family.

“My family and I are therefore not associated with this production.”

The new film, starring US Oscar-nominated actors Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard, traces Madikizela-Mandela’s life from Bizana in Eastern Cape, where she was born and took part in stick-fighting with boys, until she moved to Joburg and studied to become the first black social worker – with a soft spot for children.

The courtship with Nelson Mandela is explored as well as her political troubles, such as her 13-month solitary confinement and the murder of young activist Stompie Seipei, in which she was implicated but has maintained her innocence.

Her deteriorating relations with her imprisoned husband and the eventual collapse of their marriage is included too. The film ends with her appearance at the Truth And Reconciliation Commission.

It is distributed in the US by Bishop TD Jakes’ company.

Roodt said they didn’t consult Madikizela-Mandela because they wanted to tell the story in a particular way. “It would be so nice for someone like Winnie to see her film. We can’t get to her, it’s so weird. I’ve met Winnie many times in the past and she has endorsed many films of mine like Yesterday.

“She would have liked to be included but she wasn’t. We chose to do it our way. She said she hoped that we preserve the integrity of her as a human being in her story. It was an encouraging statement. We were amazed that she acknowledged that we did the right thing for us,” he said.

“I am proud about my movie but movies aren’t the ultimate truth about anything, the are not definitive statements but artistic expressions.”

Pieterse said the film was flattering of its subject.

“This is a positive telling of a beautiful story of a young beautiful woman that went wrong. If we consulted her, can you imagine what you, the media, would have done with us?

“She didn’t say she rejects it, she just said she disassociates herself from the film because she is not associated with the film. But in the statement she also says she acknowledges the creative process and the integrity that needs to be preserved. Did we do Mrs Mandela a disservice? Let the people speak.”

Press Statement: Film based on UNAUTHORISED biography of Winnie Mandela

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