Film gives voice to Rivo­nia Trial heroes


TO HON­OUR those who fought along­side Man­dela in the apartheid strug­gle, Sir Nick Stadlen will host a screen­ing of his suc­cess­ful doc­u­men­tary film Life is Won­der­ful: Man­dela’s Un­sung Heroes in King

Wil­liam’s Town at the Steve Biko Cen­tre to­day.

Stadlen, who used to watch re­ports of the apartheid strug­gle on tele­vi­sion, said he was in­trigued by the cov­er­age of the Rivo­nia Trial where Man­dela was sen­tenced to life in prison and did not reg­is­ter that he did not act alone.

“When Nel­son Man­dela died, I had re­cently taken early re­tire­ment as a high court judge in Eng­land and hap­pened to be in Cape Town,” Stadlen ex­plained.

“I tracked down De­nis Gold­berg, one of Man­dela’s co-de­fen­dants, and spent a life-chang­ing day in his flat in Hout Bay, lis­ten­ing to ex­tra­or­di­nary tales of his role in the anti-apartheid strug­gle, cul­mi­nat­ing in the Rivo­nia Trial where he stood in the dock along­side Man­dela and nine oth­ers,” he said.

Stadlen said he re­alised when he went back to Eng­land that he was not alone in his ig­no­rance on the roles played by the other fig­ures and was de­ter­mined to hear their side of the story.

“So I de­cided to record their story in their own words and hired James Cal­lum, a bril­liant young cam­era­man who had never been to South Africa, and spent the most ex­cit­ing month of my life in South Africa in­ter­view­ing the sur­vivors in their homes, in the safe house in Rivo­nia where most of the de­fen­dants were ar­rested, in the dock of Court C of the Pre­to­ria Supreme Court where they heard Man­dela chal­lenge the judge to hang them if he dared, and on Robben Is­land where all of them served their life sen­tences, ex­cept for De­nis,” said Stadlen.

He added that the film is an in­spir­ing tale of im­mense sac­ri­fice and courage.

“I was in­cred­i­bly im­pressed by the courage, in­tegrity and vi­sion of this small group of black, white and In­dian ide­al­ists who said, Not on my watch, Not in my name.

“In the words of An­drew Mlan­geni, they were a ‘multi-racial band of com­rades who fought for a multi-racial democ­racy’. It has been a hum­bling and in­spir­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to learn their sto­ries and seek to share them with a wider au­di­ence.”

Time slots to watch the doc­u­men­tary film:

Schools only at 10.30am and public at 6pm.

Schools wish­ing to make book­ings for their pupils should con­tact the Steve Biko Cen­tre li­brar­ian Mwelela Cele on (043) 605-6736 or send an e-mail to

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