Dear Mandela

When the South African government promises to ‘eradicate the slums’ and begins evicting shack dwellers from their homes, three friends who live in Durban’s vast shantytowns refuse to be moved. DEAR MANDELA follows their journey from their shacks to the highest court in the land as they invoke Nelson Mandela’s example and become leaders in an inspiring social movement. Mazwi, an enlightened schoolboy; Zama, an AIDS orphan and Mnikelo, a mischievous shopkeeper are part of a new generation who feel betrayed by the broken promises of Mandela’s own political party, the African National Congress. Determined to stop the evictions, they met with their communities by candlelight and discovered that the new innocuous-sounding ‘Slums Act’ legalized the evictions and violated the rights enshrined in the country’s landmark Constitution. With the help of pro bono lawyers, they challenged the Slums Act all the way to the hallowed Constitutional Court. The extraordinary achievements of the shack dwellers did not come without a price. As the beloved Mandela's portrait beams down from schoolroom chalkboards and shack walls, Mazwi, Zama and Mnikelo learn of the sacrifices that come with leadership. Shack demolitions, assassination attempts and government repression test their resolve to continue. By turns devastating, inspiring and funny, DEAR MANDELA offers a new perspective on the role that young people can play in political change and is a fascinating portrait of South Africa coming of age.

Dara Kell is a South African filmmaker, writer and editor. She directed and produced the award-winning Dear Mandela, which screened in 37 countries and was translated into 10 languages. She shot, directed and edited a 5-part short documentary series in Brazil about children’s perspectives during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. She is a Sundance Institute Creative Producing Fellow, a Poverty Scholar at Union Theological Seminary and recipient of Participant Media’s ‘Outstanding Filmmaker’ award, representing Africa. Her work has been supported by Chicken & Egg Pictures, the New York State Council on the Arts and the Ford Foundation.

Christopher Nizza is a New York born, bred and based filmmaker and editor whose Emmy Award-winning work includes documentaries, commercials and music videos. He directed a 5-part short documentary series in Brazil about children’s perspectives during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. He produced and edited feature pieces for Figure Skating at the 2010 Winter Olympics and Gymnastics at the 2012 Summer Olympics, NBC’s two highest-rated venues at the Games. He directed “Let Me See That Ponytail Run”, an award-winning music video for the alt-country band The Defibulators. Dear Mandela is his first feature documentary.