"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" is based on South African President Nelson Mandela's autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country's once segregated society. Idris Elba ("Prometheus") stars as Nelson Mandela with Justin Chadwick ("The Other Boleyn Girl") directing.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is the long awaited motion picture adaptation of the personal story of one of the world’s most revered leaders, an esteemed statesman in modern history and an international icon, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Based on his autobiography, the motion picture rights to which were entrusted exclusively to producer Anant Singh, this is the first film to tell Mandela’s whole story. The epic film spans Mandela’s exceptional life journey from his early years as a herd boy in rural Transkei to his inauguration as the first democratically elected President of South Africa.
Director, Justin Chadwick (The First Grader, The Other Boleyn Girl) helms a screenplay penned by Academy Award® nominated screenwriter William Nicholson whose other acclaimed screenwriting work includes Shadowlands, Gladiator and Les Miserables.
Multiple award-winning actor, Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther, Prometheus, Pacific Rim and Thor), plays the role of Nelson Mandela, with Naomie Harris (The First Grader, Skyfall) as Winnie Madikizela Mandela. The stellar South African cast is headlined by Tony Kgoroge (Invictus), Riaad Moosa (Material), Fana Mokoena (World War Z, Machine Gun Preacher), Jamie Bartlett (Beyond Borders), Deon Lotz (Skoonheid, Sleeper’s Wake), Simo Mogwaza (District 9), Terry Pheto (Tsotsi), Thapelo Mokoena (Nothing For Mahala), and Praise Singer and Poet of the Nation, Zolani Mkiva, who rose to fame as the praise-singer at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as President in 1994.
Executive Producers are Videovision’s Sanjeev Singh and Sudhir Pragjee; Pathe’s Cameron McCracken and Francois Ivernel, as well as the Industrial Development Corporation’s Geoff Quena and Basil Ford alongside the National Empowerment Fund’s Philisiwe Buthelezi and Hlengiwe Makhathini, with Vlokkie Gordon, Brian Cox and Robert Naidoo as Co-producers.
Sundance Film Festival ‘Best Cinematography’ winner, Lol Crawley (Hyde Park on Hudson), is the Director of Photography, with Johnny Breedt (Catch a Fire) as Production Designer. Costumes are designed by Diana Cilliers (District 9) and Ruy Filipe (The Bang Bang Club), with Rick Russell editing.
Director, Justin Chadwick acknowledges that he faced an enormous challenge in making a movie not just about one of the most revered statesmen of the 20th Century, but also an international icon and a most loved individual. “My instincts told me that I should concentrate the story on him as a man. When I met his daughters and other people who were close to him and I discussed my approach to the film, all of them stressed: “Yes, treat him like a man. Tell the story of him as a man”.
“The most informative for me was Anant’s input. Over the extensive period in which he put this film together, he formed deep and honest relationships with people who were involved in the anti-apartheid struggle. Anant sent me huge parcels of books and amazing imagery from this period – I have a bookcase full of material! Likewise, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has done a formidable job in cataloguing that period of history and allowed me open access to it. I’ve viewed very shocking footage that has been broadcast, but also material that has never been seen, such as uncut interviews with Winnie and Madiba (Mandela’s clan name)”.
“Although I knew the film I wanted to make, I was very conscious – as a native of Manchester - of coming from ‘the outside’ and I listened to Madiba’s comrades and those close to him and that helped me find my way into the film. Because his autobiography is a very sprawling book, one could make a 24-part mini-series and still not do it justice, I wanted this to be a cinematic experience to take place in one viewing, so I believed it needed a point of view – rather than an extended story from him as a little boy to being an old man. It’s just too much. So it was really through those personal conversations that I was able to get the emotion into the story.”
“When Anant first talked to me about the project, he stressed that the centre of the story was the human narrative; the cost to the man, the cost to the family, and to his relationship with Winnie. As a filmmaker that seemed to be a way to focus the lens of the camera. Yes, we could remember those television images and the iconic moments when he was released from prison, but I wanted to take the camera behind the closed doors right before that moment, and his personal interaction with his daughters, and our screenwriter, William Nicholson, embraced that.”
“I think because the project had been worked on for such a long time there were great expectations about how his story would be told. Was it going to be a reverential biopic? Yes, of course we wanted to get the settings 100% authentic, but I was very set on approaching it as we would a modern movie; if there is a car chase in the story we would do it as we would in a modern movie. We wanted the film to have a visceral quality. Mandela’s life was a roller coaster, both before he went to prison, whilst he was in prison - his personal heartache at being torn away from his family – and after he was released when as a relatively old man he had to face a very violent time in South African history. We deal with all that in the film.”
“The way that we’ve made the film is going to entertain, and I think it’s going to shock a lot of people because, while the backdrop of his life was a most turbulent period of history, as a young man he was living fast, and what these men were doing in their fight for liberation was incredible; the film involves action sequences and hard-hitting drama and, at the heart of it, is a unique love story.”
“We incorporated that energy and dynamism into the film so that the audience is in the moment of those events and can really feel what it was like for Mandela and his comrades who were involved in it. We set out to get under the skin of the man, because many brilliant documentaries have been made from the outside looking in, but this isn’t about that. This is an audience gathering together in a cinema, and we want to give them a roller coaster ride –with all the emotion of loss and sacrifice, struggle and danger.”
“If you’re dealing with events that have shattered people’s lives, you can’t do anything other than your very best, and everybody on this production gave this film their 100% commitment. We owe it, because it is the official Mandela movie. But it’s so much more than just the Mandela family story, it’s about The Struggle and this is still very present in everybody’s lives today, you feel it when you’re on those streets with the people we were working with, you feel it from the crew; the struggle is still ongoing, and this film has to be worthy of those people.”
The journey to bring to the big screen the personal narrative of one of the greatest humanitarians in history was a formidable 16 year-long odyssey for the producer, Anant Singh. As a third generation of Indian descent born in South Africa, and classed as a ‘non-white’ citizen by the apartheid government, Anant was part of the liberation struggle. “Madiba was that icon for everyone in that struggle and when I started making movies I believed that the story of this liberation was so profound, it had to be told.” Singh, who started his career in film production during the height of apartheid, brought the country’s first anti-apartheid films to world screens. Ironically he was prohibited from watching them in South Africa’s segregated cinemas together with any white director.
It was through his close relationship with the prominent anti-apartheid activist, Fatima Meer (who wrote the Mandela biography, Higher than Hope, which was approved by Mandela while he was still in prison), that Singh was introduced to Mandela. Six weeks after Mandela’s triumphant release from prison Singh had the most significant meeting of his life. “Fatima invited me to her home and there sat Madiba! I had no idea he would be there.” recalls Singh who spent an hour with Mandela at the very start of his freedom.
“What struck me was his humility, his knowledge of everything, and most notably his desire to know my point of view. He made everything so easy. Here you are with a person who you’ve been in awe of all your life, but you feel like you’re talking to a friend. That was the day that my relationship with him began.”
Before Long Walk to Freedom was published in 1995, Mandela invited Singh to look at the manuscript. “It took me the weekend to read and I immediately said to him: ‘There is a significant movie here, I have to make it!’ When the book hit international agencies two months later, the offers came in from Hollywood and a bidding contest began. Singh recollects that Madiba said: ‘This is a South African story, and I want you to tell it.’
The great leader personally awarded Singh the coveted rights to adapt his personal memoirs to the motion picture medium. “All I could promise Madiba was my commitment and that I would do the very best I could to make a movie that I hoped he would be proud of.” While Singh acknowledged the very real honour bestowed upon him, he now faced a daunting challenge to get the movie made.
The film marks a reunion of sorts for Singh, Screenwriter William Nicholson, Justin Chadwick, and producer David Thompson - with whom Singh produced Sarafina!, Red Dust, and Bravo Two Zero. William Nicholson penned the Sarafina! screenplay, and both Thompson and Singh were producers of Chadwick’s multiple award-winning The First Grader, shot in Kenya.
Cameron McCracken, now Managing Director of Pathe in theUK, was working for British Screen (predecessor to the British Film Institute), when he first met Singh who was at the start of the development process. Sixteen years later, Pathe was the first distributor to board the project, acquiring the UK and French rights and the international sales mandate. “Anant has carried this project for 16 years – his passion for it has never dimmed because he lived this history.” avers McCracken, who believes that Singh’s film will be a departure from previous movies about Mandela. “One of the biggest differences is the sheer cinematic scale. If you are going to tell the story of one of the most iconic individuals on the planet - you have to mount the biggest African production ever, because it demands a big canvas.”
Clearly, the greatest challenge the filmmakers faced was to encapsulate almost 80 years of an overwhelming life into a film that is less than three hours. Having previously collaborated with William Nicholson 23 years ago when he wrote the Sarafina! screenplay, Singh first offered the adaptation to the two time Academy Award® nominee. “William doesn’t often do adaptations, so it was wonderful when he agreed.”
Nicholson picks up: “I said, ‘I’m a Brit, why don’t you go to a South African, as you know there are some wonderful South African screenwriters, even some who’s heritage has been to live through these very difficult times’, and Anant said to me: ‘we need this to be an international movie, this is for the world, it is not just for South Africa.’
Singh had thought carefully about the potential risks of a writer – whether White or Black - getting lost in the complexities of the struggle. “I wanted somebody who could stand back from it and see a big story for the world. I didn’t realize it would take William 16 years and 34 drafts!” he muses.
The global film community is well versed with the fact that a movie can typically spend years “in development”, but Singh stayed with the project and countless incarnations of the screenplay. Speaking of Thompson and Singh, Nicholson says ‘they’re both old friends of mine - we were all together on Sarafina! – and so we hung on in there, and kept coming back to it. Anant, crucially kept on saying, ‘it’s not over, we’re going to make this film. I have promised Madiba, and I’m going to do it. But we’re not going to do it until we’ve got all the elements in place.’
Singh rejoins: "I wanted to portray Madiba’s journey in a way that would be a fitting tribute to that amazing life, so every screenplay draft over the years was important.”
“The film is more than a book,” says Nicholson. “It’s a shelf full of direct personal experiences, by Mandela, by Winnie, and by all the other players in this series of events. An average screenplay is 120 pages long, so it’s insane to think you can incorporate all that. It’s not a compression of a book at all.”
“In some ways, it was very intimidating. I felt an enormous sense of responsibility. It’s a very important story, and it’s a true story – that I had to tell right. On the other hand, if one worries too much about the responsibility, one could end up not telling the story in the best way possible,. One becomes so terrified of offending, or leaving something out, or misrepresenting any or all of the people who lived through this period, some of whom gave their lives, or at the least a large portion of it. But, one can’t let that weigh on you too much because then one is unable to create the drama. One ends up creating something else, which is like a documentary.
My job, in a way, was to forget about the sense of historic responsibility and fashion the material into the most powerful story that I could, which captures the essence and the spirit of what Mandela achieved. That was my task. And I knew from the beginning I would have to leave out an enormous amount and tell the story through the relationship between him and Winnie. At the heart of this narrative there are two stories: Mandela’s and Winnie’s. He is a man who didn’t originally want to be politically engaged, he just wanted to make a success of his life, but found himself drawn into a political struggle. The further he was drawn in, the more he realized he had a lot to lose. We watch him going through so many changes; first of all, absolutely abiding by the ANC commitment to non-violence, then realizing that that isn’t going to work and that violence is the only way forward.”
Singh continues: “I think everybody believes they know something about Madiba, and that’s probably reasonably accurate, but what they know just scratches the surface. Madiba’s life as a child growing up in the village, being groomed to become the leader of the Madiba clan, was the foundation that made him the leader that he became. Nobody knows anything about his life with his first wife Evelyn. His life with Winnie is more documented, and we have highlighted that they had a very traumatic life in those early years, and we’ve tried to give the world a very introspective look in the film, but equally to put the film on a canvas that’s fitting of Mandela’s epic journey. Mandela is a myth in many ways, and I think transformed the myth to reality.”
“It’s a very difficult story to give a dramatic shape to,” adds David Thompson. “The earlier drafts of the script were a bit too respectful in tone, and we were in awe of the subject which is so huge and Mandela is such an icon. But, Anant was tenacious, and just cut what had to be cut.”
Mandela famously wrote of himself that he didn't wish to be treated like a saint, that he was a human being, with a beating heart, and flesh and blood, who had all the foibles of human beings.
“The love story is possibly the most powerfully moving part of Nelson Mandela’s story” says McCracken.”In so much of what he achieved he appears almost super human. But that is why he was absolutely right to press Anant not to forget that he is just a man, that even extraordinary human beings have feet of clay. Even so, when you have done something so momentous with your life, it’s inspirational and that’s why this script, like the film, is triumphant. It’s a joyful film. It’s not dull politics. It’s totally lived.”
Ahmed Kathrada, one of the seven political prisoners sentenced alongside Nelson Mandela in the Rivonia Trial, recalls the birth of Mandela’s autobiography: “The manuscript Madiba wrote on Robben Island was not as dense as “Long Walk To Freedom” which was much more developed and researched. It was used as the basis for his book. When Madiba turned 60 and we had been in prison for 10 years, we thought that the time had come for us to make a political statement and that getting him to write his autobiography would be the way. This was kept a secret even from ANC people, except those of us who were directly involved. The process was that he would write whatever he could and give it to me for my comments, which I would write in the margin, and then pass on to Walter Sisulu for his comments. Then, with our comments, Madiba would write the final version and send it to Mac Maharaj who – in miniscule writing - reduced 600 pages to 50 double-sided pages.”
Kathrada describes the cautious planning of their undercover process. As Maharaj was being released after serving a 12 year sentence, the job to smuggle the manuscript off the Island and send it to exiles in London fell to him. Once he reached his destination the plan was to send Kathrada an innocuous postcard confirming that it was out of danger and that they could destroy the original - which they had compressed into small plastic containers and buried in the garden. “We thought we were safe and didn’t destroy it, but when the prison authorities built a wall through the garden we hastily managed to retrieve and destroy some of the notes, but the rest was confiscated and our punishment was a 4 year deprivation of studies for writing this illegal document.”
Kathrada discusses the movie: “We do not want Robben Island to be a Museum of our Suffering. It’s a prison that symbolizes victory, because it has never occurred in history that an individual has stepped out of the shoes of a prisoner, into Parliament and on to become President in such a short space of time. It is my hope that the movie will go beyond Madiba and highlight his legacy; what he stood for, and what he’s always emphasized.” He himself has gone out of his way to say that he is very worried that people have built him up into a saint. In fact, that quotation is in his Book of Quotations. It worried him all the time. As he has always emphasized, he is part of a collective. He doesn’t take decisions on his own.”
“Telling Madiba’s story and those of the people around him is a very big privilege, and even more significant is that we have access to people like Ahmed Kathrada, who spent 26 years right alongside Madiba in the cell next door to him. It has been invaluable to have a resource like him, but more importantly that he could experience and share the development of the movie through its journey and incarnations over the years. He’s been there from the first day that I got the rights.” says Anant Singh.
“I had just done The First Grader with Justin Chadwick and I saw his ability to dig very deeply into a story and tell it with power, emotion and authenticity. This was key to the decision,” says Singh.
McCracken continues: “Justin is not at all intimidated by scale and you can see his range of skills from The Other Boleyn Girl to The First Grader (shot in Kenya), from a big sweeping period drama to an intimate emotional story. Marrying his experience (and evident joy) in making films in Africa with his confidence to tackle grand scale projects seemed a winning combination for this film.”
“Justin came in with a very fresh eye,” says Nicholson. “From the beginning he discussed his vision for the film to have a visual freedom and immediacy about it, and while audiences may be expecting a solemn and stately tribute to a grand old man, he wanted to get right in there, ‘fast and dirty’. So we worked the script to find ways to stop the movie ever settling down into a series of solemn speeches.”
The filmmakers faced the daunting task of doing justice to iconic figures like Nelson and Winnie Mandela, and with the added challenge of capturing the spirit of the ‘Mandela Magic’ which has been experienced by every person that has ever met him.
“I am British and this is a South African film and it was important to me to have South Africans tell this story, and so I began my search in South Africa.” says Chadwick.
“Mandela is a once-off in world history, but I didn’t want a reverential kind of portrayal. I wanted someone who could scratch underneath the surface of the story; make him human and let us see him as a flawed man, a man who’s under pressure, but also who has intelligence and that magnetism. I wasn’t looking for an actor who would try to impersonate Mandela” says Chadwick who paid special attention to the discussions he had with Mandela’s comrades and those who knew him as a young man. “They all talk about the electricity around him, about his astuteness and about how striking he was as a man who lit up any room he entered.”
Chadwick discusses his respect for Idris Elba’s talent: “I had an instinct about Idris. I loved his work in The Wire. He’s very truthful, and a very brave actor. I travelled to Toronto to meet him and as soon as I started talking to him I knew he was the one. He understood how I wanted to make the film, and he was respectful of the subject but not daunted. It was more important to me to cast somebody in that role who was true to what the film was about.”
Singh adds: “When Idris came up in our discussions, he was at a place in his career where this role was perfect for him. I thought his performance was so powerful in the Rwandan genocide movie, Sometimes in April, and it is one of the reasons that he’s doing this film. But equally he has a stature and a presence like Madiba. At the end of the day it’s about performance, and it’s about getting that ‘Madiba magic’ which Idris has got – that charisma and that charm that we all know of Madiba. There was no one else we felt who could actually pull that off.”
While Mandela’s intense struggle to dismantle apartheid had put him at the forefront of South Africa’s political stage, his private life is a more tragic story. His incarceration on Robben Island isolated him from his beloved young wife, Winnie (she was 23 years old at the time and they had been married only 4 years), as well as his children; wrenching from him the very essence of his life. Ultimately Mandela won the quintessential reward, which was freedom for his country, but he paid an appallingly high price in his personal life.
“Film is about characters.” says screenwriter, Nicholson, “and my job wasn’t to give a history lesson. I think Winnie’s story is almost as fascinating and as rich and complex as Mandela’s story, and to have them both so intimately linked, tracing them through the movie, to the end when he finds himself obliged to separate publicly from her, is just very powerful.“
“While Mandela was imprisoned, many believed that it was Winnie who was effectively being tortured, and that violence at the hands of her tormentors turned a beautiful, loving wife into a person filled with rage, and finally to war. At the same time, Mandela was reaching the opposite conclusion in prison. The independent events in their lives forced them in irreconcilable directions. “One could not construct a more dramatic conflict than that.” says Nicholson.
As part of his research Chadwick talked to individuals who witnessed these two very dynamic people coming together. “Madiba was a young man on fire, and it was as if two forces came together. The photographs show a radiant couple and it must have been a true, passionate love. I think the great tragedy was when he came out of prison to find that she was no longer the woman with whom he had fallen in love. She had lived through war on the streets.”
To bring to life a formidable and multifarious woman who is both loved and hated, the filmmakers turned to Naomie Harris who had delivered such a commanding performance in The First Grader. Singh recalls: “At that time, when I asked Naomie to think about playing Winnie Mandela, she was blown away.”
Harris considers the rare opportunity for an actress to interpret a multi-dimensional character who travels an exceptional journey. “Winnie is propelled from life as a young bride and mother to the harsh reality of being married to a political prisoner, abandoned with two young children. In order to survive she has to draw on an incredible strength as she is victimized and harassed by the police. While she starts out non-political by the time Mandela is released she is a very militant, pro-violence and embittered woman.”
To assist her prep for the role, Singh sent Harris a wealth of reading material, documentaries, and television interviews as well as uncut footage of her rallies, and details of her ghastly torture. In South Africa, Harris further developed her research by meeting people who knew Winnie. “It was interesting because opinions of her are very polarized. So, I came up with my own idea of the person she was, and my interpretation of her life.”
She was also very relieved when she was finally able to meet the ‘real’ Winnie. “She was incredibly kind and I said to her: ‘what do you want people to take away watching this movie, and how would you want them to perceive you?’ She replied that ‘the most important thing to me is for people come away with the truth, I trust that you have done your research and you should faithfully create your own interpretation of my life.’ This was very generous of her and very liberating for me as an actress.”
Harris shares that she went on her own emotional and spiritual journey and that she felt distressed in many scenes. “When I was dragged from the house, wrenched from my children, whipped and torched by my interrogators and then held in solitary confinement it was harrowing, and I can’t imagine how it must have been for Winnie; she was completely alone, there were no rules or regulations to save her; she was at the mercy of a brutal police force who acted with impunity to get at Mandela.”
“As well of immense enthusiasm and passion, Justin also has a wonderful sensitivity and I felt very supported.” reflects Harris. “He was uncompromising about one fact, however, and that was “no acting”! He wanted it to feel real, and these harrowing scenes made it very real for me.”
“Naomie has found something very complex, something very dark and very powerful in Winnie.” says Thompson. “In many ways she’s the more complicated of the two characters to play because there are so many different facets to her character: she’s loving, she’s sweet, she’s cruel, she’s tough, she’s vindictive, she’s full of revenge and she’s full of tenderness. There’s a huge emotional range the actress playing Winnie has to cover and I think Naomie has really reached for this part in an incredibly graphic and vivid way. It’s a real challenge because Winnie is unfathomable in many ways.”
Chadwick enlisted the help of South Africa’s casting veteran, Moonyeenn Lee, who had cast The First Grader for him. “Justin is a real actors’ director, he loves and respect actors.” says Lee. “His critical requirement is that an actor must not appear to be ‘acting’, they’ve got to be really truthful. This is a quality that I could immediately determine in an audition, so I didn’t have to waste Justin’s time going through thousands of people, so we did it for him.”
The actors who played the roles of the prisoners who received life sentences alongside Mandela, were affectionately referred to by the cast and crew during production as “The Magnificent Seven”.
The cream of South Africa’s acting talent was cast in the pivotal roles of Mandela’s comrades and co-prisoners on Robben Island. Tony Kgoroge – who also starred in The First Grader – stepped into the shoes of Walter Sisulu, Riaad Moosa inhabited the role of Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki is played by Fana Mokoena, while Raymond Mhlaba is played by the acclaimed praise poet, Zolani Mkiva, and Simo Magwaza and Thapelo Mokoena play Andrew Mlangeni and Elias Motsoaledi, respectively.
“They all came together, almost like a rat pack.” muses Singh. “Whenever I met Sisulu, Kathrada and Madiba together, I experienced a spirit and a camaraderie that I felt also existed with the guys that we put together for this film. This is important, as this energy ultimately comes out on screen.” says Singh.
Chadwick worked very hard to identify actors who could not only play the roles of the most celebrated leaders in the anti-apartheid struggle, but could also work together as a cohesive group. In addition to the Robben Island prisoners, Lee and Chadwick assembled a remarkable cast to play other characters central to Mandela’s life, the numerous layers starting with his family; his daughter “Zindzi” is played by Lindiwe Matshikiza, his first wife “Eveleyn Mase” by Terry Pheto, and Mandela’s mother “Nosekeni” is played by Zikhona ZIdlaka. The younger Mandela (age 16-23) is portrayed by Atandwa Kani, son of the acclaimed actor, John Kani, and Siza Pina plays Mandela as a child.
S’Thandiwe Kgoroge (real wife of Tony Kgoroge) plays the role of Walter Sisulu’s wife, “Albertina” – also a staunch freedom fighter. Other ANC stalwarts, “Oliver Tambo” and “Albert Luthuli”, are played by Tshallo Chokwe and Sello Maake respectively. Mandela’s guard on the island, “James Gregory”, is brought to life by Jamie Bartlett, “President F.W de Klerk” is played by Gys de Villiers, and other apartheid government officials who played a role in the transition included Minister of Justice, “Kobie Coetzee”, played by Deon Lotz, and Head of Intelligence Service, “Neil Barnard” played by Carl Beukes.
The Rivonia Trial brought together Mandela’s lawyer, “George Bizos”, played by James Cunningham, and “Bram Fischer” - who led Mandela’s defence team - is played by Andre Jacobs. Louis van Niekerk takes on the role of Judge Quartus de Wet, with Adam Neill as Chief Prosecutor, “Percy Yutar”.
“We had to find actors who could deliver a powerful performance, even though their parts are quite concise.” says Thompson, “Although they haven’t got a lot of screen time, one and all play an essential role and the trick was to make them prominent!”
Determined to fulfill Chadwick’s call for a visceral quality, Lee in searching for ‘real’ prisoners, took her camera and sound crew to Robben Island where numerous former prisoners, ironically, are gainfully employed. The film is, therefore, cast with many individuals who had first-hand experience of incarceration on the island, and if not a relationship, then at least an encounter with vital persons in Mandela’s life. In total, including in the key roles, Lee cast a staggering 140 artists, and those who didn't have dialogue were all seriously featured and had to be able to deliver a performance.
Born to Ghanaian and Sierra Leonean parents, Chadwick grants that Elba is not from South Africa. “My first words to Idris were: ‘I know that you haven’t been brought up in the cultural tradition of the Eastern Cape, but I am not making a ‘lookey-likey’ film.’ It was very important to Idris to culturally understand this character, and he came here and did his research and got underneath the surface of it. He had soaked it up way before we started shooting.”
Mandela’s sweeping story covers more than seven decades, and the film features him from his childhood in his rural village to his life as a young, dapper lawyer, his imprisonment and then election as President. While two young actors play Mandela, the child and Mandela, the teenager, at 40 years of age Elba was physically able to play the bulk of Mandela spanning his years from 23 through to 76.
“Having just one actor carrying the film was brilliant,” says Singh. “there aren’t many films that have been able to achieve this.” As his journey progresses Mandela’s personality ranges from an ambitious lawyer to an angry young man, to an incredibly skilled operator who plays politics in a sophisticated way. “For a young actor to cover that range of years and also a variety of emotions, skills and characteristics is quite extraordinary. So I think it’s a pretty devastating performance that Idris has given us.” says Thompson.
“Very little is photographed or known about the young Mandela that we needed to capture, and to have an actor who could play it with speed and agility and be true to the spirit of Mandela - and that just clicked with Idris.” says Chadwick.
Thompson continues: “Idris is an incredibly instinctive actor, he just steps into the scene and finds the moment although of course he does a lot of studying and works incredibly hard to research and think it all through. For example, when he came on to do the scene in which he addresses the Nation on SABC television, that was the first time he played the old Madiba. It was absolutely extraordinary; he walked in the room and like “Ping!” He did it in the first take. He got the spirit of it and reflected the whole mood of Madiba’s voice and personality and movement. I don’t know quite how he found this, but something took over perhaps. He seems to have just sailed into this part and made it his own from day one, an incredibly difficult thing to do.”
“When Idris finished that scene you could hear a pin drop in the room, and everyone spontaneously applauded because the way he pulled it off was so magical.” says Singh. “He did his homework, and when we saw the first dailies we knew we had something very special. In addition to Madiba’s unique accent, Idris had the presence, the charm and the dignity - all of these qualities we know of Madiba, he nailed it, just like that!”
Dialogue coach, Fiona Ramsey, makes important reference to the broad spectrum of accents in South Africa’s 11 official languages. Ramsey’s priority was to assist Elba to lose his London cockney accent, and become familiar with Mandela’s famous enunciation. There is limited recorded footage of Mandela as a young man, and working alongside Ramsey the isiXhosa coach, Nomboniso Paile, they had to imagine how he spoke. “It was interesting to create an accent for Idris that spans so many years. What we toyed with was the idea between the private and public figure because the majority of Mandela footage features his public persona. We tried to establish a slight difference between the way that he speaks with his family, or even intimately to a warder whom he’s become close to, and that of his official voice. I think that this texture has allowed Idris to play around a lot more with the sounds.” Ramsey stresses that acquiring an accent is not just about changing a sound. “You inhabit it, it has a very specific cultural orientation.”
“We’ve done our research and now we have got to feel it,” says Chadwick who reiterates, “I didn’t want to create a look-like, sound-like individual. I wanted to catch the spirit of it and that made sense to Idris. His acting is an absolute revelation.”
Responsible for the spectacular design of the film in authenticity and scope is Production Designer, Johnny Breedt, who Singh recruited on the project some 15 years ago as ‘action vehicle coordinator’. Over the years while the project was in various stages of development, Breedt’s involvement increased to location scouting and research. This extensive period of ‘prep’ time enabled him to assemble a staggering body of material. The results of his research via books, films, documentaries and museums were housed in the Art Department where more than 300 books and 5000 photographs served as a dynamic reference tool for actors, the director, the costume people, and the researchers throughout the movie.
The design of the movie was a key component of Chadwick’s stance to tell the story in the form of a ‘modern’ movie. “I told them yes, get it 100% authentic, but get the action sequences, if there’s a car chase in the film, we will shoot it suspenseful and fast. We don't want a load of old cars puttering around. You want to have a visceral quality to the film.”
Breedt recalls that he was somewhat bemused when the director gave reference to a couple of movies that ‘are probably very far from what people would expect, such as City of God and Elite Squad.’
Despite having made a number of biographical pictures such as Dickens for the BBC and The Other Boleyn Girl, Chadwick states that he is not a fan of period movies. “Who wants to watch a historical drama? I wanted our crew to experience the energy and excitement seen in many South American movies.” The director adds that behind the scenes he was also watching movies like The Godfather, and David Lean’s movies. “We are shooting on 35mm film and have this extensive landscape, but I did not want to shoot it with the traditional wide shot, close up, and mid shot. I wanted the camera right in there with the actors, capturing the emotion of the scene – as you would in a contemporary movie.”
Breedt recalls: “Justin wanted to keep it as real as possible and design a world into which the actors could literally step and perform their scene in the genuine environment of their characters, and we would just shoot it.
“You don’t want to see the direction, or the art directing, or costumes,” says Chadwick. We just wanted to drop the camera into an absolute real situation.”
To obtain this veracity, Breedt shares that “There was no specific plan as to how the shots would be set up, Justin just filmed the world and the sets simply served to energise it.” Breedt believes that this approach had an impactful effect. “Idris spent a night in Mandela’s actual cell on Robben Island by himself and when he walked onto the set that we designed he told me he was ‘totally in that world’.”
As the film spans so many decades, Breedt’s major task was delivering a vast, yet detailed canvas, highlighting the different impression and mood of each decade. These ranged from Mandela’s rural village to the vibrant city of Johannesburg in the early 1940’s where white citizens owned vehicles, and blacks travelled in buses and trams.
“In those years of segregation, blacks were mainly migrant workers and domestic servants, and not that ‘visible in the city.”
Breedt and the Location Managers, Robert Bentley and Edu Klarenbeeck, scouted some four hundred locations and filming took place in approximately two hundred of them. By the time Chadwick joined the production, many of the buildings that featured in the original script had been torn down.
Breedt discusses their efforts to create the world in and around Mandela’s life, starting in his childhood village that was a pristine preserve of nature and beauty, steeped in tribal culture. As there is no documented visual history of the villages of that period, Breedt’s challenge also presented him with the opportunity to be inventive.
Since the 1920s, Mandela’s village has changed so drastically - now featuring a museum and a hotel for tourists – that the team had to identify a new location that was as visually breathtaking as the Transkei. The magnificent Drakensberg in the KwaZulu Natal Province provided this environment. In South Africa significant tracts of rural and countryside land is tribal-owned and to procure agreement to film in these locations required direct interaction with the head of the local tribe. Breedt explains: “It is a conventional system in which elders are invited to participate. Before we worked in their locations we had to take offerings; traditionally they would slaughter a goat, and we had a barbecue for the locals and invested in the community by recruiting local labour.”
Most scenes scripted for Cape Town were shot in authentic sites in that city. However, today Robben Island is a major tourist destination and this limited access, together with logistical difficulties, meant that shooting only exterior scenes - such as the spectacular view of Table Mountain - were feasible. The world-class Cape Town Film Studios served as the backbone for the production with a number of set-builds on the backlot. The courtyard of B Section of the Robben Island prison, including interiors of the cells and visiting rooms, as well as rows of streets and homes which established the township of Orlando in the 1940s, were replicated with precision and authenticity.
The immense project required professional construction companies and industrial equipment to excavate an area of some 15 000 square metres on the backlot in order to clear a space to build the sets. The build of the impressive Robben Island set includes authentic roof and drainage and is classified a permanent structure. A professional road construction company constructed tar surfaced streets for the Orlando township – where Breedt’s 200-strong construction crew of skilled, and semi-skilled labourers from the local communities built twenty period homes for exterior shots.
Breedt points out that the Robben Island set was designed for the 1960s, “in the years following, as the world press put pressure on the authorities they became more lenient and facilities on the Island were improved; such as a dedicated room for cinema, study facilities, toilets were fitted with doors and the cells were furnished with beds.”
The magnificent Palace of Justice in Pretoria is the establishment where the most prominent case in South African history, the Rivonia Trial was held, and where Mandela delivered his famous speech. Today it acts as the headquarters for the Gauteng division of the High Court and is off limits to the public. The rigorous rules of access called for another majestic set build at the studios – the interior of the Palace of Justice complete with the first floor gallery and the holding cells below the courtroom. While Mandela’s famous speech was recorded and documented, no film footage of the case exists. “Apart from the people who were there, no one knows what the courtrooms looked like at the trial.” says Breedt. “In addition, one doesn't get a sense of why it is named the Palace of Justice - until you go into the building. In Italian Renaissance-style it is a regal establishment, and all the interior features make a statement; the soaring lobby, towering gold columns, spectacular balustrade, elaborate chandeliers and light filtrating through the glass dome – it’s pretty intimidating. Furthermore, the acoustics in the Palace wouldn’t have worked for the film.”
Co-Producer, Vlokkie Gordon, discusses the value of shooting at the Studios. “Not only did the cost-saving enable us to build phenomenal sets, but it gave us flexibility to transition to the real townships which have changed dramatically since the 1940s and 1950s.”
Most critically, it enabled the production to have control over riot scenes that featured army tanks and petrol bombs in the township streets. “Obviously these actions are central to the story, but re-enacting such violence and taking military hardware into public spaces is not an option, these events are still traumatic for township communities.” stresses Gordon.
It is considered that with its modern houses and satellite dishes, there is no ‘real’ Soweto anymore and the famous Vilakazi Street where Mandela and Winnie resided has a totally different look. However, Kliptown – situated in an older area of Soweto - served as the base to shoot numerous scenes set in Soweto, and the team was able to build 30 sets there. “The “City of God” feel will be evident in those Soweto scenes.” says Breedt.
Sophiatown produced some of South Africa’s most famous writers, poets, musicians and artists, but it was the great Jazz legend, Miriam Makeba, who put the Black ‘suburb’ on the world map. In the 1950s when White South Africans wore Safari suits and inhabited cloistered and privileged lives, Sophiatown, like a mini Soho, was the nerve centre of the country’s entertainment scene.
Unlike other townships in South Africa, Sophiatown was a freehold township, having been established prior to the law preventing black people from owning land being passed. It was the last remaining area occupied by a multi-racial community. Something of an anomaly for its time, this cosmopolitan, hip and happening area became a popular cultural hub where Whites, Coloureds, Indians and Blacks converged to experience a vibrant world of dance and swinging music in nightclubs. The strong influence of American movies was seen in the high fashion of the women, as well as the snappy outfits worn by the gangsters – infamously known as ‘Tsotsis’.
Given its close proximity to central Johannesburg, the apartheid government razed the shantytown to the ground dispossessing this unique community of their homes.
This brutal act of destruction represented the apartheid government’s contempt for people of colour, and thus serves as a vital element of the film, and Chadwick wanted to approach the scene of the demolition in a substantial and gritty manner. Breedt, who located a ruin at an old mine site, says: “We added to the remnants of the mine turning it into (part-ruined) Sophiatown, but we built it for real, with bricks and cement, so when the bulldozers physically slam into it the collapse will look authentic.”
Chadwick’s tough and true-to-life rendering of Mandela’s powerful journey is expressed through the cinematographer Lol Crawley’s work. “Justin’s great achievement in this film has been to create something very vivid, lively, and entertaining which will keep you on the edge of your seat.” says Thompson. “He has infused it with a fantastic amount of energy; Lol’s cameras are very restless, vigorous, and probing, capturing the tension in this story. Even the scenes that might have been potentially dull were brought to life by the quality of the acting, the genius of the camerawork and the rigour of the director.”
Extras Coordinator, JP van der Merwe faced a considerable assignment to identify and recruit the thousands of individuals that were in Mandela’s life; from the innermost layer of family and close friends, to rural villagers, to freedom fighters, policemen, government officials, guards, and Island prisoners, to the wider layer of township residents to the masses of angry rioters, and finally the colossal crowd assembled at Victor Verster to welcome their hero as he took his first steps to freedom. The final count exceeded 10 000.
Staying consistent with Chadwick’s desire to imbue the picture with a deep-seated quality, van der Merwe explains. “I didn’t want to go with the regular procedure of casting agency extras. They are used to doing movies and have lost their innocence. I wanted to get in real people, who are still living the struggle every day.”
With the impossible task of navigating the relatively haphazard framework of communication in impoverished communities, van der Merwe relied on the community leaders to nominate individuals who were unemployed and desperate for work. From there, van der Merwe set up a systematic process to fulfill the scheduling requirements of the production. On many occasions van der Merwe worked through the night trying to locate and confirm the extras on call the following day. “Most of these people don't have regular phones or cellphones, it was a humungous job to run smoothly, and we also had to be sensitive to their expectations; you can’t have 2 000 extras arrive and face the disappointment that only 200 are needed.”
Involving the local communities provided much needed employment, and Vlokkie Gordon emphasizes the production’s commitment to invest in the community. “A film is an entity moving into someone else’s space and our aim was to empower people, the story is very much their own.”
Discussing the vast challenges of executing a movie with 283 scenes; 200 sets, each with a minimum of 2 or 3 set pieces and a cast and crew of hundreds travelling throughout South Africa, Gordon considers that the most difficult aspect, in her point of view, was the restrictive scheduling. “A typical day would involve: ‘what period are we in, what do they look like and in what stage of make-up, and this would take a team of 14 skilled prosthetic make-up artists up to 4 hours to transform a character. By Call Time on a ‘period’ day, we would have up to 80 people who had been working since 3:30am.”
With nearly 10 000 individuals involved in the production, – the film in production scope, and budget - is the largest African movie ever made on the continent. “This film is empowering, its employing, its training and educating and it breaks new ground in our industry,” states Gordon.
“From the very first meeting with Justin it was clear that he wanted to approach the epic story of Nelson Mandela’s life with a very fresh, visceral and original stylistic approach,” says cinematographer, Lol Crawley.
“Citing the films of Fernando Meirelles, Matteo Garrone and Jacques Audiard as important influences, we looked at the hand held style and naturalistic lighting used in ‘City of God’, ‘Gomorrah’ and ‘A Prophet’ and compared them to the more classical cinematic grammar of films such as ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. We felt that we needed to explore and celebrate the ‘epic’ inherent in the life of Mandela but also to refrain from putting him on a pedestal. We felt that the earlier part of the story, Mandela’s childhood in the Transkei, lent itself to calmer, more considered, classical camerawork which would play in stark contrast to the increasingly visceral and raw camera movements depicting Mandela’s life from his arrival in 1940s Jo’burg through to the Rivonia trial.0>
Where possible we felt it important to shoot on location where the events actually occurred in order to achieve the maximum level of authenticity.
Obviously one of the biggest choices facing filmmakers is whether to shoot on film or digital but for this project there was never any doubt that film would be the preferred medium. There is an inherent alchemy to be explored in the weeks leading up to the start of principal photography in which different makes and ages of lenses are tested in combination with a myriad of different stocks and post production techniques. How these choices render the different landscapes, time periods of the story, costume and set design is a crucial part of the creative process.
Chadwick’s brief to ‘keep it real’ was also essential to the work of costume designers Diana Cilliers and Ruy Filipe, who replicated outfits right out of history. Cilliers points out that in addition to authenticity, Chadwick was intent on the cinematic value of the costume.
The wardrobe team took on the herculean task of designing costumes spanning nearly a century. “This is a designer’s dream project.” remarks Filipe.
The passionate duo paid the finest attention to the smallest detail of texture, colour and stitching to magnify the narrative of each character - from the leads, bit parts to the extras – and the mood and style of each decade, the locations and the pivotal events – in the tens, hundreds and thousands.
Filipe considers that he and Cilliers had a ‘Ying and Yang’ partnership that enabled them get a 360 degree view of the significant requirements of what they describe as a puzzle.
Starting with Mandela’s childhood the Designers had to conceive of costume imagery from the 1920s to the 1990s.
In the village of Qunu in rural Transkei, Mandela was born into the Madiba clan. He was christened as Rolihlahla (which means “troublemaker”) and was later given the English name of ‘Nelson’ by his schoolteacher. He is the son of a hereditary chief, and grandson of the Thembu King and leader of the Madiba clan, and thus considered royalty. The rich cultural heritage of the Xhosa tribe into which he was born together with his lineage, plays a vital visual role in the movie.
Filipe was enthusiastic to highlight the organic elements of his wholesome life in the countryside; the community characterised by the practice of agriculture, and living in close proximity to animal herds and having a meaningful relationship with the land. Filipe’s use of earthy tones refelcted that realtionship.
Atandwa Kani, who plays the young Mandela, is also of Xhosa descent and relates that the vivid culture resonates with him. “We are proud of our rich culture which is also expressed through embellished outfits.” Many aspects of the daily life of the Xhosa people are guided by their inextricable link to their ancestors and they honour tradition and are respectful of their elders. One’s rank in the hierarchal society and lineage is represented in one’s attire, every bead, colour and pattern is symbolic. “Our attire is a celebration of the Xhosa self.” says Kani, who is pleased to be able to wear the wardrobe emblematic of Mandela’s royalty and great stature. A Xhosa boy’s initiation rites to manhood is marked by white clay painted on his body, and the ritual – which transcends time - encompasses a festive celebration for the whole community as they honour the step from boy to man.
It is when he arrives in the bustling city of Johannesburg in the 1940s that Mandela sees for the first time what White people wear. “This sparks his discriminating taste for fine suits which he had tailored to fit his body. He took great care in his personal appearance.” says Filipe whose team handmade 19 suits for the young lawyer. “It was fantastic to dress Idris. He has great stature and looks good in whatever he has to wear.”
Despite being a hero to millions, Mandela was something of mythical figure. When he was incarcerated his photographs were destroyed and for nearly 3 decades virtually no one in the world had any idea of his appearance. Like most of the designers on the production, the Costume team had limited reference material at their disposal. Many of the prisoners who were released from Robben Island in the 1990s donated their personal belongings packed in apple boxes to the Mayibuye Centre at the University of the Western Cape. It is here that Cilliers uncovered a goldmine of archive material. “We had access to their actual prison outfits and not only were we able to copy them in styling and fabric, but we could introduce personal details; little add-ons, and idiosyncratic methods that they had used to adapt their outfits to make their lives easier. We found a beautifully preserved jersey Kathrada had been gifted, probably from someone who had corresponded with him. It was both haunting and inspiring.”
Harris, discussing Winnie’s wardrobe says: “She was always immaculately dressed, no matter what she was going through. I think it helped lift her spirits.”
The festive jazz era of Sophiatown gave birth to a vibrant style of fashion that Cilliers considers was never featured in the White community. “The society was very influenced by American images; women were exhilarated with fashion and took great care in their grooming. That style of wide skirts and petticoats, hats, bags and gloves has never been repeated in the Black community.” says Cilliers who makes reference to the magnificent photographs shot by the celebrated photographer, Alf Khumalo, and those featured in the Bailey Archives from Drum Magazine. “These images reflected an incredible, pulsating society – despite its poverty.”
Cilliers mentions that she was specifically inspired by designing Ahmed Kathrada’s outfits. “His sense of style was different to the others in the ‘Magnificent Seven’. He was from a younger generation and different culture, so I tried to give him a completely different look. While the others wore formal thre piece suit attire, Kathrada often wore leather jackets and he had cravats, we tried to imbue a more mischievous energy in him.”
Tasked to create diverse layers of society and multiple layers of apartheid, Filipe imparts that Chadwick wanted costumes through which one would really feel the grit and the reality of what the apartheid years were like. There was always evidence of some opulence among the Whites, and while the Blacks wore ‘hand me downs’ and lived in disgraceful poverty we can always see a dignity amongst them.”
Together with the large cast of main characters wearing different styles of wardrobe throughout the period, one day players and thousands of extras, Cilliers informs that the total count of bodies that they dressed exceeded 15 000.
The challenge to faithfully portray the changing look over the extensive period of Mandela’s journey was presented to the Make-Up and Prosthetics team.
Make-Up Designer, Meg Tanner, and her outstanding team had to create the diverse appearance of 12 000 extras, 105 cast members, and seven leads spanning over five decades. Inspired by the story and Justin Chadwick as a visionary director, Tanner worked from accurate photographic references. “We wanted to give honour to the people who are represented in the film.”
Tanner, enjoyed meaningful input from Elba and she designed seven looks for Mandela’s changing appearance over the years. As a young man, Mandela’s hairstyle was distinguished by a pronounced side parting. His dashing good looks, statuesque body, self-confidence and mischievous charm made him popular among the ladies. “Idris doesn’t feel forced into looking like Madiba, he has a twinkle in his eye, and his own powerful presence and it works.” says Tanner who weaved a human hair wig for Elba’s young Mandela. “It really becomes a part of his head and movements and for Idris it feels like it’s a part of him and not a foreign object that has been placed on his head. We wanted to give Justin his vision to capture the spirit of the man and not create a look alike replica.”
Ageing several of the main characters including Mandela, his fellow prisoners and Winnie over a 40-year period called for significant prosthetic work to take the ageing further than straight make-up could achieve.
“We needed to find a way to age the actors and have them look like their real life counterparts, and specifically we discussed ways how to get Idris to resemble Nelson Mandela, but without the look alike approach that Justin was so against.” recalls Thompson. “We decided not to unduly concentrate on ‘duplicating’ Idris into Mandela, or add too much rubber to his face to change the structure of his face.”
Tanner’s design boards served as a critical guide for the make-up and prosthetics team to tackle the project in a cohesive way. She worked very closely with Academy Award® winning (The Iron Lady, World War Z) British Prosthetics designer, Mark Coulier, and they configured a way to avoid a glaring ‘jump’ between natural ageing and the final prosthetics.
Many of the key characters went through two stages of prosthetics. Stage One was the gradual aging of the cast members to the point of 18 years into their sentence. Stage Two prosthetics was when the prisoners were transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in 1982. To accomplish this stage of prosthetics involved four hours of application, hair and final make-up. On these days, the actors would be in the chair at 03:30am.
Coulier worked with South African prosthetics and sculpting specialist, Clinton Aiden-Smith and together the team of some twenty prosthetic artists from the United Kingdom and South Africa, created their magic in Aiden-Smith’s workshop ‘Cosmesis’.
Coulier discusses the challenges of prepping, creating moulds, and painting details as fine as eyebrows. “There are new set of pieces every single day for every character, and in a scene that features six characters we had to prepare 36 pieces for one days filming!”
In addition to the massive scope of prosthetics that sometimes required twelve artists working on one character, Aiden Smith states that creating Winnie was the most difficult: “It was a very involved process to blend all those fine little prosthetic edges into Naomie’s flawless skin.”
Nelson Mandela is considered to be a man who changed the world. His triumph had worldwide repercussions. Beyond his strategic political skills and fierce intellect Mandela managed to achieve peace for his country on the brink of civil war. He did this in a manner that no other leader in history has been able to achieve: by getting into the mind of the enemy, understanding the enemy, and finally forgiving the enemy. He has already gone down in a history as not only the greatest statesman of his time, but also as a great humanitarian.
“Each and every crew and cast member knuckled-down to contribute his or her expertise to make the best possible movie,” acknowledges Singh. “The story resonates with every South African and everyone felt pride and ownership. Despite the size of the film we were one big family and regardless of the position anyone held, we all felt very privileged to have had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work on this remarkable story.”
“Every day when I walked on that set, it reminded me that I was in a moment when I was part of something really special, something that will always be remembered.” says Gordon.
Singh adds: “Here we are today, able to tell this story in a way that is so accurate, so that the world in fifty years or even a hundred years from now, can see this film and be able to say, ‘You know, that was an amazing journey. You can’t believe that happened.’ Mandela’s story stands apart and above. It is a cinematic acknowledgement that will hopefully inspire us, and the world.”
Zolani Mkiva who in addition to playing the role of Raymond Mhlaba also served as the cultural advisor on the film, says: “I want to see Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom in Russian, in Arabic, in French, in Portuguese, in Swahili, and all our own mother tongue languages because this is a story that will inspire billions of people across the world. This is the first movie of its kind to be made in a liberated South Africa, we have never had a production of this magnitude and gravitas that will communicate to all the four quarters of the globe - a message flowing from South Africa. Many people know that Nelson Mandela went to prison, but what they do not know is what in essence he endured as a man.”
Executive producer, Sanjeev Singh adds: “As filmmakers we hope to leave behind a legacy for South Africa’s future generations about the man who fought for their democracy..”
Anant Singh reflects: “I had also the good fortune to meet Madiba a few times while we were filming. He was looking strong, and he was in good spirits. We are very fortunate to have him with us at the age of 95, and hopefully many more years to come. Most importantly, I want to make sure that he gets to see this film.”
Was it their ancestors who guided Mandela’s parents to christen him Rolihlahla – the Xhosa word for “troublemaker”? Was it possible that these ordinary people of the land could ever imagine that the infant they held was destined to live an extraordinary life that that would one day change the world?
Golden Globe winner IDRIS ELBA (Nelson Mandela) captivated American audiences as the infamous Stringer Bell in HBO’s critically acclaimed cult-hit series, The Wire. He continues to make his mark as one to watch in Hollywood, with a string of well-received performances in high-profile films and multiple television series.
Idris, the son of a Sierra Leonean father and Ghanaian mother, started his career in his native city of London, where he had a mainstay role on British television by his mid-twenties. He starred in some of the UK’s top rated shows, including Dangerfield, Bramwell and Ultraviolet. In 2000, Ultraviolet was purchased by Fox in the United States, offering Idris a break into the American marketplace. After moving to New York, Idris received rave reviews for his portrayal of Achilles in Sir Peter Hall’s off-Broadway production of one of Shakespeare’s more complicated plays, Troilus and Cressida. Shortly thereafter he landed a part on the acclaimed television series Law & Order.
Around the same time, David Simon, creator of HBO’s award winning series Oz, met with Idris causing him to land the role of Stringer Bell, the lieutenant of a Baltimore drug empire on The Wire. Idris’ portrayal of the complex but deadly Bell is arguably one of the most compelling in TV history. As the show’s notoriety flourished throughout the world, critics and audience members quickly began to appreciate Idris’ talent. In 2005, he received an NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for his work on The Wire.
Idris soon after landed his first leading role in the HBO Original Film, Sometimes in April, for which he received his second Image Award nomination, this time for Outstanding Actor in a TV Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special. A prolific run of leading roles followed in Tyler Perry’s dramatic feature Daddy’s Little Girls for which he received a BET nomination for Best Actor, the thriller The Reaping also starring Hilary Swank, and in the horror thriller 28 Weeks Later. In 2007, Idris starred in Ridley Scott’s Golden Globe nominated American Gangster with an all-star cast including Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Ruby Dee and Josh Brolin. The cast went on to receive a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. That same year, he returned to London to film Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla alongside Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton and Tom Wilkinson. The film went straight to #1 in the UK box office in its first week of release.
Idris next starred opposite Beyonce Knowles in the crime thriller Obsessed, directed by Steve Shill. For his role, Idris received a BET Best Actor nomination, as well as a NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. The movie grossed in $28.5 million on its opening weekend, storming to # 1 in the box office and became the highest-grossing opening on record for the ‘stalker thriller’ genre movie at the time of its release.
In 2009, Idris showed off his comedic talent joining the cast of NBC’s hit television show The Office as Michael Scott’s less than amused boss Charles Minor. He later appeared as Laura Linney’s love interest in the Showtime comedy The Big C, for which he earned a 2011 Emmy Nomination in the “Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series” category. The next projects that followed were The Losers, in which he shared the screen with Zoe Saldana, and box office hit Takers, alongside Matt Dillon, Chris Brown and Hayden Christensen, for which he received a 2011 NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture. In May 2009, Idris moved to Glasgow to film Legacy, directed by Thomas Ikimi. Along with playing the part of a Black Operations operative, Idris debuted as Executive Producer of the film, which was selected to close The Glasgow Film Festival in February 2010.
The Tribeca Film Festival in April 2010 commended Legacy with great critical acclaim. Recent films include Thor, directed by Kenneth Branagh and Ghost Rider with Nicolas Cage. IdrIdIn 2010, Idris landed the title role of John Luther in the BBC crime drama mini-series Luther, a complex detective struggling with his own terrible demons. The six episodes were shown on BBC 1 in April 2010 and audiences and critics alike responded to Idris’ portrayal of the tormented detective. His performance earned him a 2011 Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie” as well as a nomination at the 2011 Golden Globe Awards. He also went on to win an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special and the BET Award for “Best Actor.” In 2012, following the airing of the second installment of Luther, Idris took home the Golden Globe award for “Best Actor in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture Made for Television.” Idris recent film, Pacific Rim, is directed by Guillermo del Toro, and will soon be seen in Thor: The Dark World, directed by Alan Taylor and Sam Miller’s No Good Deed starring opposite Taraji P. Henson.
As a critically acclaimed actress in film, television, and theatre, NAOMIE HARRIS (Winnie Mandela) is making a name for herself with each of her luminous performances. Harris stars in the James Bond installment Skyfall as Eve Moneypenny opposite Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes and Albert Finney. Sam Mendes directed the film which was released by Sony Pictures.
Harris recently starred at The National Theater in London in Danny Boyle’s production of Frankenstein opposite Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch. In the Justin Chadwick-helmed The First Grader, Harris played ‘Jane,’ a first grade teacher in Kenya who fights for the right of an 84 year old man to be educated—even if it means learning in a classroom with six year olds. The film went on to garner a number of international Festival awards including the Audience Award at the Telluride Festival, and Doha Film Festival and was the Audience Prize runner up at the 2010 Toronto Film Festival.
The London-born actress had her first major breakthrough performance in 2002 with Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and went on to receive further international recognition and critical acclaim for her role as ‘Tia Dalma’ in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. Other major feature film credits include Michael Mann’s Miami Vice, Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story; Street Kings with Keanu Reeves and Forrest Whittaker; and Sex & Drugs & Rock and Roll with Andy Serkis.
On television, Harris starred in the BBC’s Small Island and Blood and Oil, and in the UK’s popular television adaptation of Zadie Smith’s bestselling novel White Teeth, as well as the adaptation of the novel Poppy Shakespeare, and Peter Kosminsky’s The Project.
Harris has won various awards, beginning in 2003 with Best Actress at the Monte Carlo Television Festival. In 2007, she won the Rising Star Tribute Award at the Bahamas International Film Festival as well as Best Actress at the Screen Nation Awards (which she won again in 2009). That same year, she was nominated for a BAFTA Orange Rising Star. More recently, she was awarded Best Actress at The Royal Television Society Awards in 2010.
Harris graduated with honours from Cambridge University with a degree in social and political science then trained at the prestigious Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.
TONY KGOROGE (Walter Sisulu) is an accomplished, award-winning South African theatre, television, and film actor and in 1997 he received a Vita award for the Best Upcoming Actor.
Tony has played lead roles in many top-rated South African television series including Isidingo; Deafening Silence; Dark Angels; Tarzan; Soul City; Gazlam; Homecoming, and Zero Tolerance. Tony’s motion picture work includes Justin Chadwick’s The First Grader, Clint Eastwood’s Invictus in a main supporting role of Jason Tshabalala (Mandela’s bodyguard), Anthony Fabian’s Skin, opposite Sophie Okonedo, Blood Diamond, directed by Edward Zwick for Warner Bros.; Lord of War, alongside Nicholas Cage, directed by Andrew Nichols, Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda, alongside Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo, Hijack Stories, directed by Oliver Schmidt, and The Bird Can’t Fly, directed by Dutch filmmaker, Threes Anna. Tony’s vast body of Theatre work includes. Equus; Woza Albert; SeZar (in the lead role of Julius Caezar) at the Oxford Playhouse in the United Kingdom, Die Jogger; Fiddler On The Roof; Mooi Street Moves, and Joseph for P.A.C.T. As a graduate of the Pretoria Technikon, Tony received a Honourary award from the Pretoria University of Technology.
As one of South Africa’s most popular and acclaimed stand up comics, RIAAD MOOSA (Ahmed Kathrada), is a silver medallion graduate of the College of Magic in Cape Town. Starting his comedy career as a comedy magician, he was presented with the Comedy Magic Award at the Centre for the Magical Arts in Cape Town.
Riaad, who is also a qualified Medical Doctor, started doing standup comedy while still studying Medicine at the University of Cape Town Medical School. He was an instant hit, receiving rave reviews at his debut show. Riaad started performing stand-up at the Cape Comedy Collective's free Comedy Lab workshops, and just two months later he was the winner of the hotly contested One City, Many Comics Talent Competition held as part of the One City Festival in September 1999. Being one of the first members of the Cape Comedy Collective, Riaad became a regular headliner on the comedy circuit during his rookie year, where he was also invited to perform on Pieter Dirk Uys’ Evita Live and etv’s comedy show Dangerous.
He supported Marc Curry of Hanging with Mr. Cooper fame, rocking the crowd at the Durban Playhouse in 2001. This was followed by his supporting Russell Peters in his show Made in India at the Luxurama Theatre where he received excellent reviews from his parents and critics alike. That same year Riaad was part of the largest stand-up show in the history of South African television Laugh out Loud, in which he joined nine of South Africa’s top comics to raise half a million Rand for the Reach for a Dream foundation.
In 2003, Riaad performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, headlining in the Cape Comedy Collective - The new South Africa Stands Up production. The following year Riaad was a writer and performer for SABC 1’s Pure Monate Show, which achieved cult status amongst South Africa’s urban youth. Riaad also featured in the Crazy Monkey – Straight Outta Benoni movie. In 2006 Riaad performed his first one-man show Strictly Halaal at the Nelson Mandela Civic Theatre. The run was sold out a week before it started and five extra shows were added over one weekend to meet the huge public demand. He continued the tour in Durban at the International Convention Centre, and then at the Cape Town International Convention Centre packing both houses and having to add on extra shows. He later appeared alongside Marc Lottering and Nik Rabinowitz in the hit variety comedy show 3 Wise Men - directed by David Kramer. Riaad performed his second theatre show For The Baracka hit, The Fringe at The Jo’burg Theatre (formerly the Civic Theatre) for record-breaking sold-out audiences.
South African Muslim comedian Halal Bilal was Riaad’s support act in Make Love Not War, along with the American Muslim comedy troupe, Allah Made Me Funny. Fans and new audiences alike just couldn’t get enough of the show, which led to Riaad Moosa for the Baracka being extended for a grand finale in the main Nelson Mandela Theatre at the Jo’burg Theatre. Riaad’s standout standup comedy skills were also recently included in the DVD for the successful Blacks Only comedy shows, and he also featured in the Anant Singh/John Vlismas produced comedy-collective feature film Outrageous, which was released at cinemas in South Africa.
Along with SA’s top comedians - including Trevor Noah, David Kau, John Vlismas, Tumi Morake and Marc Lottering - Riaad was one of the headline acts supporting international superstar Eddie Izzard for the 46664 It’s No Joke concert in February 2010. This event raised funds for the ongoing work done by charities that fall under the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Riaad has since become a regular presenter of The Second Opinion – with Dr Riaad Moosa on the e-News channel’s satirical news Program Late Nite News with Loyiso Gola. In March 2011, Riaad was awarded the “Comics Choice Award” at the “First Annual South African Comic’s Choice Awards.” On 17th Feb 2012, Material - the movie that “made Barry Ronge cry” - opened in South African cinemas nationwide to overwhelming critical acclaim. The film went on to win 5 SAFTA’s (the South African equivalent of the Academy Awards).
The most recent and notable motion picture for South African actor, FANA MOKOENA (Govan Mbeki) was in a support role in “World War Z”, starring Brad Pitt and in Safe House starring Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds. Following Fana’s performance in Machine Gun Preacher opposite Gerard Butler, acclaimed director, Marc Forster, made a special request to once again work with the talented artist. Fana has also just completed a role in Black South Easter, directed by Carey McKenzie.
The award-winning performer has been honoured with the Best Actor Award in the African Academy Awards for his role in the film Man on Ground, directed by Akin Omotoso and a SAFTA Best Actor award for his role in The Lab. Fana’s other motion picture credits include the lead role in Rolie Nikiwe’s Inside Story; Violence”, directed by Khalo Matabane, Terry George’s Golden Globe and Academy Award nominated Hotel Rwanda; Dangerous Ground; Jump The Gun, and Arthur Penn’s Inside.
Regarded as one of South Africa’s most accomplished acting talents, Fana’s Television work includes a number of the most popular and long-running shows broadcast on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) including Generations (in the Lead role), and Isidingo. Fana’s other shows on SABC, mostly in Lead roles, include Soul City (Eps #10 and #11); Hopeville; The Lab; Zero Tolerance; Yizo Yizo; Going Up (Series #2 & #3); Flat 27; Khululeka II, and The Line. Fana plays the Lead role in Rhythm City, aired on the Free-to-Air etc. His other Television credits include 52 Regent Street, directed by Academy Award winner, Gavin Hood (Tsotsi), as well as Company Pictures’ Wild at Heart, on ITV, and the Barry Levinson exec-produced The Philanthropist.
British filmmaker, JUSTIN CHADWICK (Director) started his career in the entertainment industry as a child actor. He graduated from the University of Leicester and in 1991 made his screen debut in London Kills Me. Additional acting credits include The Loss of Sexual Innocence and appearances in the television dramas Heartbeat, Dangerfield, Dalziel and Pascoe, and others.
Chadwick's directorial debut was the 1993 television movie Family Style starring Ewan McGregor which he directed and performed in Shakespeare Shorts, a series that explored the history of Shakespearean characters and presented them in key scenes from the plays in which they appeared. He directed episodes of Eastenders; Byker Grove; The Bill; Spooks, and Red Cap before directing nine of the fifteen episodes of the mini-series Bleak House, which was broadcast by the BBC in the UK and by PBS in the United States as part of its Masterpiece Theatre series.
Chadwick was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Director for a Miniseries, Movie or Dramatic Special, the Royal Television Society Award for Breakout Performance Behind the Scenes, and the BAFTA Award for Best Direction of Bleak House, which was the Best Drama Serial winner in the British Academy Television Awards 2006. Bleak House was also nominated for two Golden Globes, four Royal Television Society Awards, three Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, three Satellite Awards, and the Television Critics Award.
Following The Other Boleyn Girl, which was screened at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival, he completed the multiple award-winning and critically acclaimed feature film The First Grader, starring Naomie Harris.
Anant Singh (Producer) - Born and raised in apartheid South Africa in the eastern coastal city of Durban, ANANT SINGH began his film career at age 18 when he left his studies at the University of Durban-Westville to purchase a 16mm movie rental store. From there, he moved into video distribution, forming Videovision Entertainment and then progressed into film production in 1984 with Place of Weeping, the first anti-apartheid film to be made entirely in South Africa.
Singh is recognised as South Africa’s pre-eminent film producer, having produced more than 80 films since 1984. He is responsible for many of the most profound anti-apartheid films made in South Africa, among which are “Place Of Weeping,” Sarafina! and Cry, the Beloved Country.
Nelson Mandela called him “a producer I respect very much…a man of tremendous ability” when he granted him the film rights to his autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom. The film titled Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, is directed by Justin Chadwick and stars Golden Globe winner Idris Elba as Mandela and will be released in November 2013.
Singh is the producer of Yesterday (from director, Darrell James Roodt), which received South Africa’s first Academy Award Nomination in the Best Foreign Language Picture category in 2005, the Peabody Award and an Emmy Nomination in 2006 in the “Outstanding Made For Television Movie” category.
A selection of his subsequent feature films includes: Sarafina! with Whoopi Goldberg, Leleti Khumalo and Miriam Makeba; The Road to Mecca, with Kathy Bates; Father Hood, with Patrick Swayze and Halle Berry; Captives, with Julia Ormond and Tim Roth; Stephen King’s The Mangler, Cry, the Beloved Country with James Earl Jones and Richard Harris; and Red Dust, directed by Tom Hooper and starring Hilary Swank and Chiwetel Ejiofor, a drama focussing on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Released in 2008 and produced by Singh is More Than Just A Game, the moving docu-drama feature which tells the inspiring story of organised soccer among prisoners on Robben Island (the maximum security prison where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were incarcerated by the apartheid regime in South Africa).
The First Grader, directed by Justin Chadwick, was a hit at the Telluride, Toronto, London and Doha Film Festivals in 2010, tells the remarkable and uplifting story of a proud old Mau Mau veteran who is determined to seize his last opportunity to learn to read and goes to school for the first time, joining a class of six year olds.
Among the documentary features produced by Singh are My Hunter’s Heart which explores the world’s oldest Shamanic culture and how it is now at the brink of extinction; and Once In A Lifetime which celebrates the magic and euphoria of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
Anant Singh has also produced notable documentaries, including Countdown to Freedom, about the first democratic election in South Africa, Prisoners of Hope, about a reunion on Robben Island of 1250 of its former political prisoners led by Nelson Mandela, Hero For All which documents Nelson Mandela’s farewell visit to the United States as he stepped down from the South African Presidency. Viva Madiba: A Hero For All Seasons was produced as a 90th Birthday tribute to Nelson Mandela in July 2008 and Obama: People’s President, a documentary feature that explores the unique and innovative US presidential campaign mounted by Barack Obama as well as The Journalist And The Jihadi: The Murder Of Daniel Pearl which tracks the parallel lives of the late Wall Street Journal writer and his Jihadi murderer, Omar Sheikh.
Singh co-owns Cape Town Film Studios, a state-of-the-art film studio facility in Cape Town which also hosted the shoot of Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and where authentic sets were created on the back lot. He also co-chairs the Cape Town Metropolitan radio station, Smile 90.4FM.
He is a former board member of the International Marketing Council Of South Africa (now Brand South Africa) and South African Tourism, having served two terms on both these bodies, the Los Angeles-based Artists For A New South Africa and the Nelson Mandela 46664 AIDS Awareness Initiative. Singh is a recipient of the Crystal Award of the World Economic Forum and the Lifetime Founder Member Award of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund. Both the University of Durban-Westville and the University Of Port Elizabeth have conferred honorary doctorates on him.
Singh was also nominated for the 2006 Black Businessman Of The Year Award by the influential business magazine, Black Business Quarterly. The 2007 Palm Beach International Film Festival conferred the World Visionary Award to Singh for his contribution to world cinema and his production of socially conscious films.
The South African Film Industry honoured Anant Singh for his significant contribution to the advancement of the industry with the inaugural SAFTA Golden Horn Award for Outstanding Contributor at the first South African Film and Television Awards in October 2006. Singh was also awarded the inaugural Simon Mabhunu Sabela Film Lifetime Achievement Award from the KwaZulu Natal Film Commission in honour of his contribution to raising the profile of the film industry in the KwaZulu Natal province and South Africa.
DAVID M. THOMPSON (Producer for Origin Pictures) began his producing career at the BBC making documentaries for the Open University. He went on to make numerous documentaries for the Everyman series before moving across to the BBC's drama department in 1985. His first major drama production was the multi-award winning Shadowlands.
Since then, Thompson has continued to produce and executive produce drama for both film and television. He has won numerous international awards including three BAFTAs, two Emmys and three Golden Globes. Having run BBC Films and BBC Single Drama for over a decade, he commissioned and executive produced a range of award winning films including Billy Elliott; Iris; Dirty, Pretty Things; Notes on a Scandal; Red Road; The Other Boleyn Girl; Revolutionary Road; Eastern Promises; An Education; In the Loop; Fish Tank; The Men Who Stare at Goats; Match Point; The Duchess, and Bright Star. Overall David has produced or executive produced over 150 films and television dramas.
David has helped launch the work of major new talent such as Andrea Arnold, with whom he made Red Road and Fish Tank, Lynne Ramsey (Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar) and Pawel Pawlikowski (Last Resort and My Summer of Love). He has developed work that has gone on to attract major international talent such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, George Clooney, Kevin Spacey, Scarlett Johansson, Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, Mel Gibson, Jessica Lange, Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Judi Dench.
Many of these actors have won major international awards from these films. Directors with whom Thompson has worked include Stephen Frears, Jane Campion, Roger Michell, Stephen Poliakoff, David Cronenberg, Nicholas Hytner, Woody Allen, Michael Winterbottom and Danny Boyle.
For television, David produced the award-winning Winston Churchill dramas, The Gathering Storm, and Into The Storm. He also developed and executive produced numerous acclaimed single dramas including Conspiracy, The Lost Prince, Safe, Einstein and Eddington, and the original version of The Other Boleyn Girl.
Thompson left the BBC in 2008 to set up Origin Pictures. Origin has made a range of feature films and television dramas. For television the company has produced the BAFTA-nominated The Crimson Petal and for the cinema, Justin Chadwick’s award-winning The First Grader and the period ghost story The Awakening, starring Rebecca Hall and Dominic West. Drawing on Thompson's extensive relationships with international co-production partners both in Europe and North America, the company produces high-quality original drama with a distinctive edge.
WILLIAM NICHOLSON (Screenwriter) Sussex and Gloucestershire. He was educated at Downside School and Christ’s College, Cambridge, and then joined BBC Television, where he worked as a documentary filmmaker. There his ambition to write, directed first into novels, was channeled into television drama. His plays for television include Shadowlands and Life Story, both of which won the BAFTA Best Television Drama award in their year; other award-winners were Sweet As You Are and The March. In 1988 he received the Royal Television Society’s Writer’s Award. His first play, an adaptation of Shadowlands for the stage, was Evening Standard Best Play of 1990, and went on to a Tony Award winning run on Broadway. He was nominated for an Oscar® for the screenplay of the film version, which was directed by Richard Attenborough and starred Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger.
He has written and directed his own film, Firelight; and four further stage plays, Map of the Heart; Katherine Howard; and The Retreat from Moscow, which ran for five months on Broadway and received three Tony Award nominations, and Crash. William’s novel for older children, The Wind Singer, won the Smarties Prize Gold Award on publication in 2000, and the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award in 2001.
Its sequel, Slaves of the Mastery, was published in 2001, and the final volume in the trilogy, Firesong. The trilogy has been sold in every major foreign market, from the US to China. His second sequence of fantasy novels is called The Noble Warriors, which includes Seeker; Jango, and Noman. His novels for adults are The Society of Others; The Trial of True Love; The Secret Intensity of Everyday Life; All the Hopeful Lovers, and The Golden Hour. His love-and-sex novel for teens, Rich and Mad, was published in 2010.
Nicholson’s screenplays include Les Miserables directed by Tom Hooper, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen), Gladiator as co-writer, Dreamworks/Universal, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe, an Academy Award® nomination for best screenplay 2000, Grey Owl, directed by Richard Attenborough, starring Pierce Brosnan, Firelight, written and directed by Nicholson, starring Sophie Marceau and Stephen Dillane Special Jury Prize/ Youth Prize/ Best Cinematography, San Sebastian Festival, First Knight, starring Sean Connery and Richard Gere, Nell, starring Jodie Foster and Liam Neeson, Shadowlands, starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, Academy Award Nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay in 1993, A Private Matter (TV film, HBO 1992) starring Sissy Spacek and Aidan Quinn,Screenplay nominated for Emmy, Ace awards, Sarafina!, starring Whoopi Goldberg, The March (TV film, BBC tv 1990), starring Juliet Stevenson, Italia Prize 1990: Special Mention, The Vision (TV film, BBC TV 1988) starring Dirk Bogarde, Lee Remick, Helena Bonham-Carter, Sweet As You Are, (TV film, BBC TV 1988) starring Miranda Richardson and Liam Neeson Banff Festival: Best Drama 1988 RTS Best Actress Award: Miranda Richardson, 1988ACE award: Best International Drama 1990, Royal Television Society’s Writer’s Award, 1987/8, and Life Story, starring Jeff Goldblum.
William’s multiple awards include Best Television Film, New York Film Festival 1987 BAFTA Best Television Drama 1987 ACE Award, Best Picture, 1988, Crime of the Century (TV film, HBO 1996) starring Stephen Rea and Isabella Rossellini Screenplay nominated for Golden Globe, Emmy, Ace awards, New World (TV film, BBC TV 1986) starring James Fox and Bernard Hill, Disney Channel Shadowlands (TV Film) (TV film, BBC TV 1985) starring Claire Bloom and Joss Acklan, BAFTA Best Television Play of 1985,International Emmy 1986, Martin Luther (TV film, BBC TV 1983) starring Jonathan Pryce.
Cinematographer LOL CRAWLEY is regarded highly in the world of cinema, television and music video. Graduating from University in 1997 he collaborated with fellow film student and director Duane Hopkins on two internationally successful short films and the beautifully controlled feature debut ‘Better Things’ which premiered at Cannes 2008. Later that year Lol would be named by Variety magazine as one of the 10 cinematographers to watch.
Lol was awarded the Excellence in Cinematography award at the 2008 Sundance film festival for his lyrical hand-held photography and use of natural light on Lance Hammers debut ‘Ballast‘; a critically adorned film for which he also received an Independent Spirit Award nomination in 2009.
His work on Chris Morris’s 2010 Sundance debut comedy ‘Four Lions‘ which centers on four shambolic British Jihadi suicide bombers is testament to Lol’s versatility and desire to explore other genres within cinema. Lol returned to his trademark intuitive eye and responsive camera movement in Andrew MacLeans beautifully stark arctic drama ‘On The Ice’ and Braden King’s profound Armenian road movie ‘Here’, both of which played in competition at Sundance in 2011.
Lol’s collaboration with music promo and commercials director Daniel Wolfe resulted in D&AD nominated and MVA winning work for artists Plan B, Chase and Status and The Shoes and further music promos for artists Coldpay, Scott Walker and The Vaccines and commercial work for multiple directors ar Warp, 4AD Pulse, RSA and Somesuch & Co.
The woozy, laudenam induced world of the BBC period-drama ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ was Lol’s first introduction to television and earned him a BAFTA nomination for his sumptuous work on this four part mini series.
Lol’s feature work has been described internationally as “stunningly beautiful”, “Visually stunning”, “Poetic use of landscapes and faces”, “beautiful”
More recently, Roger Michell’s elegantly shot period feature Hyde Park on Hudson starring Bill Murray and Laura Linney has demonstrated Lol’s widening palette earning him a 2012 Camerimage Golden Frog nomination.
2013 will see the release of director Justin Chadwick’s biopic ‘Mandela’: Long Walk to Freeedom starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris.
JOHNNY BREEDT (Production Designer) has worked in the entertainment industry for more than two decades going through the ranks from Picture Vehicle Co-coordinator, to various positions in the Art Department, to Art Director, and today is one South Africa’s most sought after Production Designers. His motion picture credits include Philip Noyce’s Catch a Fire, The Breed, Duma for Warner Bros., Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda and The Last House on the Left. Johnny’s Television includes Death Race 2, Anthony Minghella’s The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency, Primeval, Red Water, and Scout’s Safari.
Breedt’s most ambitious film ever is without doubt Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom which he worked on for fifteen years, initially being charged with the role of Action Vehicle Co-ordinator. Producer, Anant Singh then approached Breedt to design the film and his initial involvement to budget the film, conduct a feasibility study on locations, historical references and a host of other related studies. Breedt contends that working on the film was ‘a privilege and honour to showcase Nelson Mandela’s story to a global audience.
DIANA CILLIERS (Costume Designer) early love for costume design led to her completion of a Bachelor Degree, Majoring in Theatre Costume and Set Design at the University of Pretoria in 1977. She went on to work in theatre at The Cape Performing Arts Board and the State Theatre for 5 years working under very accomplished local and international costume designers like Peter Cazalet, Bruno Santini, Raymond Schoop and many others on opera, drama and ballet productions.
The Film Industry was a natural progression for Diana and she started working in 1983 with acclaimed South African director Manie van Rensburg on various TV film productions including Verspeelde Lente and Anna, which cemented her love for period costume and assisting actors in creating characters with the help of their clothing. Diana has worked on over a hundred feature films as well as numerous television productions and commercials over the years. Her motion picture credits include Paljas and Die Storie van Klara Viljee directed by Katinka Heyns; Boesman and Lena, starring Danny Glover and Angela Basset, Bopha, starring Danny Glover, Alfre Woodard and Malcolm McDowell and directed by Morgan Freeman; Red Dust, starring Hilary Swank and Chiwetel Eijiofor; Disgrace, based on the novel by Nobel Prize winning author JM Coetzee, starring John Malkovich, Women in Love, starring Rosamund Pike, and the BBC Film The Girl, starring Sienna Miller, Toby Jones, Imelda Staunton and Penelope Wilton. Diana was nominated for a Canadian Gemini for the award winning series Human Cargo in 2004, and won the SAFTA Golden Horn award for Best Costumes for the feature film Goodbye Bafana, starring Joseph Fiennes. She was nominated a second time for the SAFTA Golden Horn Award for the film Themba, in 2010.
Among Diana’s recent credits as Costume Designer are the award winning film District 9, Twentieth Century Fox’s Chronicle, and the acclaimed BBC History Channel series The History of US. Diana owns Theatre and Film Costume Workshop, which she started in Johannesburg in 1985 and relocated to Cape Town in 1992. This studio is located in the artistic hub of Woodstock in Cape Town where a variety of talented artisans and crafts people join forces to create the costumes and characters for each film. Throughout her career Diana has been passionate about creating very specific characters through dynamic costume design in any genres from futuristic to period or contemporary. Paintings and the art world are often her inspiration for characters and Diana has taken this passion further and enrolled for a Master of Fine Arts degree at UCT’s Michaelis School of Fine Art, the subject of her thesis is ‘The Emotional Language of Clothing’ focusing on Africa and the Diaspora.
Award-winning (Costume Designer) RUY FILIPE began his career in the entertainment industry nearly three decades ago, obtaining an Escola Superior de Teatro e Cinema diploma in Lisbon in 1982. Recognised as one of South Africa’s most talented designers. In 2000 Ruy was awarded a Canadian Gemini Award for Best Costume Design, and in 2005 received a Best Costume Designer South African Naledi Award nomination.
Ruy’s work in motion pictures includes Inescapable starring Joshua Jackson and Marisa Tomei, Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda, starring Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo, One Last Look, Lion Girls, Otello Burning, The Bang Bang Club, starring Ryan Phillipe, Sumuru, the award-winning Malunde, Queen’s Messenger, A Reasonable Man - helmed by Gavin Hood (director of the Academy Award® winning Tsotsi), Fools, Jump the Gun, Darrell Roodt’s Dangerous Ground, starring Elizabeth Hurley, Cry, the Beloved Country, starring James Earl Jones and Richard Harris, Cyborg with Jean-Claude van Damme, and Schweitzer / Lambarine.
In addition to Mrs. Mandela, starring Sophie Okonedo, Ruy’s television work includes a substantial body of work for British, German, French, Italian and Canadian television such the series Angel, Whiskey Echo and as for BBC series Silent Witness, and Coup, the Canadian series Diamonds, Wild at Heart (1-3), Zero Hour 3, Zulu Love Letter, the documentary A Species Odyssey (L'odyssée de l'espèce), Beat the Drum, the television movies Dr. Lucille, King Otto, The Canterbury Tales, Desert Rose, Cape of Good Hope, and African Skies. His South African television work includes Soul City, The Principal and Jacob’s Cross.;p>
Ruy has worked on over 200 Commercials, and his Short Films include Eezie’s Tears, Dramatic Encounters, Lucky Day, and Loaded, and in Theatre ‘Prophet of the Waterberg’, and Street Woman. Ruy is Founder and CEO of the costume house, Ikaya of Costumes.
Music Composer, ALEX HEFFES fell in love with the idea of being a music composer when he was a child and also developed a deep love for cinema. It was his scores to Kevin Macdonald's Academy Award-winning films One Day In September, The Last King Of Scotland and the BAFTA-winning film Touching The Void that brought him to international attention. His reputation as a composer truly at home as much with symphonic orchestral writing as he is with electronics has given him an unusually varied and unique career. His score to State Of Play starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck featured a collaboration with classic British rock producer Flood.<;/p>
He received his first BAFTA nomination for his score to the HBO drama Tsunami: The Aftermath and has gone on to score a wide variety of productions including Charles Ferguson's Academy Award-winning Inside Job; the US box office hit The Rite starring Anthony Hopkins; Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood; Peter Webber’s World War II drama Emperor (starring Tommy Lee Jones) and Justin Chadwick’s The First Grader among many others. He collaborated with director Tim Burton on his screen adaptation of Sweeney Todd starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. His score to the short film BOY was featured at the opening ceremony of the Olympic velodrome at the 2012 London Olympics. His score for Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom features a collaboration with South African legend Caiphus Semenya.
Alex's scores have been nominated for BAFTA, Ivor Novello, European Film Academy, NAACP, Black Reel and ASCAP awards. In 2011 he was awarded Discovery of the Year by the World Soundtrack Academy and in 2012 was awarded Best Film Score of the Year at the Ivor Novello Awards in London.
Contributing Music Composer, CAIPHUS SEMENYA is one of South Africa’s foremost musical directors and composers who left the country in the 1960's. Whilst in exile, he worked with compatriots Hugh Masekela, Jonas Gwangwa, Hotep Galeta, Miriam Makeba and many others. He subsequently took up residence in Los Angeles, where his talent resulted in work with the top range of American artists and producers, and this saw his compositions being performed by Harry Belafonte, The Crusaders, and Nina Simone. His collaboration with Quincy Jones has seen Semenya composing all the African music for Alex Hayley’s Roots, and also the African music for the Steven Spielberg-directed The Colour Purple which earned him an Oscar Nomination.
Multiple award-winner and nominee MARK COULIER (Prosthetic Make-Up Designer) garnered a Best Achievement in Makeup Academy Award® (shared with J.Roy Helland), and BAFTA Award (shared with Marese Langan and Roy Helland) for his work on The Iron Lady. In 2011 his work was further recognized when he was nominated for a Saturn Award (shared with Nick Dudman and Amanda Knight) for Best Make-Up on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows : Part 1, and in 2011 received another Saturn award nomination, and a Critics Choice nomination for Best Make-Up at the 2011 Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards. In 2002 Mark garnered another Saturn award nomination (shared with Nick Dudman and John Lambert) for Best Make-Up for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. He has garnered two Emmy Awards for Arabian Nights (2000) and Merlin (1998), and a nomination for Jason and the Argonauts (2000). In addition to his work on all the Harry Potter movies in the franchise Mark’s motion picture credits include World War Z; Rush; Confine, X-Men: First Class; Coriolanus; The Mummy Returns; The Beach; Alien vs. Predator; League of Extraordinary Gentlemen; Event Horizon (Animated Extras), The Fifth Element; The Neverending Story III; The Flintstones (as Animatronic Designer); Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, and Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, and Kenneth Branagh’s Frankenstein.
His work in Television includes the Series Come Fly with Me; Merlin; Demons; Little Britain, and Children of the Dune. A multi-disciplined talent (in make-up prosthetics, make-up special effects and visual effects) Coulier began his career at the end of the 1980s, working as a special makeup technician for Clive Barker’s Hellbound, the first sequel to his popular Hellraiser horror saga. During the first half of the 1990s, Coulier worked mainly in horror and science-fiction movies: He was one of those responsible for the creature effects on Alien (BAFTA Award as a part of the team), and he also worked as the makeup special effects senior artist on another of Clive Barker's movies, Candyman. Mark was a makeup effect designer or assistant in three movies about Frankenstein: Waxwork II: Lost in Time, and two adaptations of Mary W. Shelley's novel: David Wickes, starring Patrick Bergin and Randy Quaid as the doctor and his creature (another BAFTA Award as a part of the team, and a Cable Ace Awards nomination). Mark then began working with Jim Henson's Creature Shop, from where Frank Oz eminated, with Babe.
In 1996 Mark founded Coulier Creatures, Ltd. in London, and the company won him an Emmy Award on 1997. Coulier returned to horror with spectacular Event Horizon - replacing Sam Neill's eyes with empty sockets, he worked Neill again in the TV movie Merlin (Emmy Award for Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries).
In 1999 Mark worked in Television again with Nick Willing's Alice in Wonderland, starring Tina Majorino as Alice plus an all-star ensemble cast – for which he garnered another Emmy Award. In The Mummy Coulier was one of the key animatronic model designers, alongside with Chris Barton and Michelle Taylor. This is a role that he reprised that same year in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. At the same time, he had to work in a role he was not accustomed to: an actor. After creating Malastare senator, the three-eyed Aks Moe he was supposed to play that role in the Senate scenes! He had not to worry about his voice; professional voice actor Marc Silk would be dubbed over him.
Mark was awarded with the Online Film and Television Association Awards and nominated for the Online Motion Picture Academy Awards. In 2000 Coulier created effects for two TV movies, including Arabian Nights for which he won an Emmy for Outstanding Makeup for a Miniseries, and for Jason and the Argonauts (Dennis Hopper, Frank Langella) Coulier received an Emmy nomination. He worked as prosthetic makeup artist on Another Life and in the sequel The Mummy Returns, and was the head of the make-up unit on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, beginning of the saga, which was nominated to the best Saturn Award. He was one of the animatronic model designers on the sequel Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This work was nominated for the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Awards.
Coulier designed the make up for the caveman and main star of the movie Stig of the Dump, and was the prosthetic make-up artist for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Additional science fiction projects as make-up effects artist included the mini series Children of Dune, and the crime movie about computer geeks 3 Blind Mice. In 2004, Coulier returned to the Harry Potter saga for its third installment, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as one of the key animatronic model designers alongside Val Jones-Mendosa, Tacy Kneale, Paul Spateri and Guy Stevens.
Coulier is also a visiting specialist lecturer on prosthetic make-up, and attends to conventions where he signs and speaks about his work.
MEGAN TANNER (Hair & Make-Up Designer) is widely regarded as South Africa’s most accomplished Make-Up and Hair Designer. Since the start of her career in the entertainment industry more than 20 years ago Meg has worked her way up the ranks from Make-Up Assistant to Make-Up Artist, and Head of Department, to Make-Up and Hair Designer, and Make-Up Effects Design. Her work in this field has included projects helmed by some of the world’s leading filmmakers including Clint Eastwood, Marc Foster, John Boorman, and the late Anthony Minghella, as well as work for the major studios Universal, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Columbia TriStar and Warner Bros. In 2011, Meg served as Make-Up and Hair Designer on the motion pictures Chronicle for Twentieth Century Fox, the Science Fiction action Dredd 3D, starring Karl Urban and Lena Heady, Machine Gun Preacher, starring Gerard Butler, and the biopic Winnie, starring Jennifer Hudson and Terence Howard.
Among Meg’s many other motion picture credits are Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, The Last House on the Left, The Deal, starring Meg Ryan and William H Macy, Roland Emmerich’s 10 000 BC (as Head of Department, Make-Up Crowd), and John Boorman’s In my Country, starring Juliette Binoche and Samuel L. Jackson.
Meg has worked frequently as personal Make-Up artist to actor Luke Goss on projects such as Something in the Clearing (Effects Artist as well), Shanghai Baby, Private Moments, One Night with the King, Cold and Dark, Mercenary, Unearthed, The Man, Frankenstein (and the ‘Creature’ Effects) and Silver Hawk. Her other Television work includes No.1 Ladies Detective Agency helmed by the late Anthony Minghella, E.R. (as Make-Up and Effects Designer, 1 Episode), Natalee Holloway for the Lifetime Network, Scorpion King 2, Home Alone 4, Death Race 2, Rhodes, and 10 Episodes of the History Channel’s Documentary Series America: The Story of US, starring Live Schreiber, and Atlantis.
Credits earlier in Meg’s career include Darrell Roodt’s Cry, the Beloved Country starring James Earl Jones and Richard Harris, A Reasonable Man, helmed by Gavin Hood (director of the Academy Award® winning Tsotsi), Tarzan and Jane, and Paramount Pictures’ The Ghost and the Darkness, starring Val Kilmer and Michael Douglas.