Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - TELEVISION - SAM MATHE

ONLY a hand­ful of South African ac­tors have played Nel­son Man­dela on the screen – big or small.

Names that im­me­di­ately spring to mind in­clude Lin­dani Nkosi, who por­trays the anti-apartheid ac­tivist in the 1950s in the movie Drum (2004) – based on the life and times of in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist Henry

“Mr Drum” Nxumalo. There’s also Man­dela’s Gun (2016), about the Man­dela of the early 1960s who was dis­il­lu­sioned with civil dis­obe­di­ence and de­cided to take up the armed strug­gle against the apartheid es­tab­lish­ment.

An Act of De­fi­ance: The Bram Fis­cher Story (2017) is a biopic of anti-apartheid ac­tivist, lawyer and com­mu­nist Bram Fis­cher. It high­lights the Nel­son Man­dela of the Rivo­nia Trial (1963-64) and ex­plores the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two. One is a white Afrikaner who was born into white priv­i­lege but sac­ri­ficed all that in favour of the anti-apartheid strug­gle. The other is a Xhosa prince from the Thembu royal house, in­car­cer­ated for his role in at­tempt­ing to top­ple the gov­ern­ment. One of Man­dela and his com­rades’ de­fence lawyers dur­ing the his­toric marathon trial is Bram Fis­cher, who has ap­par­ently man­aged to rec­on­cile his Afrikaner back­ground with the need for jus­tice for all.

In An Act of De­fi­ance, Man­dela and Fis­cher are por­trayed by Sello Mot­loung and Peter Paul Muller re­spec­tively. The lat­ter is a Dutch­born ac­tor. He plays the role of the sym­pa­thetic lawyer who risks ev­ery­thing to de­fend the ac­cused in a case he’s un­likely to win, and that might earn them a death sen­tence.

The film is a Dutch/South African col­lab­o­ra­tion and pre­miered in Oc­to­ber last year at the Cape Town In­ter­na­tional Film Mar­ket and Fes­ti­val, and took home the 2017 Dorf­man Best Film Award at the UK Jewish Film Fes­ti­val.

Al­though Bram Fis­cher never at­tained the cult sta­tus of his famous client, his story in the strug­gle for free­dom in South Africa is im­por­tant, and this film is a wor­thy con­tri­bu­tion to this sig­nif­i­cant but dark chap­ter of our his­tory.

Mot­loung has earned his chance to por­tray the Man­dela fig­ure.

He has dis­tin­guished him­self in a num­ber of mem­o­rable roles, in­clud­ing Nna Sa­jene Koko­bela (Sergeant Koko­bela, 2001) and

Biz­nis: The Whole Story (1999).


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