SA filmmaker Mandla Dube gets green light to film a definitive documentary series on Nelson Mandela’s life

Nelson Mandela and Verne Harris, who is now the executive director of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Picture: Nelson Mandela Foundation

Nelson Mandela and Verne Harris, who is now the executive director of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Picture: Nelson Mandela Foundation

Published May 10, 2024


The Nelson Mandela Foundation has authorised South African filmmaker Mandla Dube to do a definitive documentary series on the life of the late former president Nelson Mandela. The doccie is expected to be narrated in his own words and in his own voice.

The documentary series currently has the working title ‘Mandela: Life’ will be an unprecedented and exclusively authorised five-part series founded on Mandela’s extraordinary life and the most dramatic period in South African history – 1984 to 1994, the ‘deadly decade’ during which thousands of people died in political violence.

A decade that began with Mandela in prison, and ended with him being elected President of South Africa after the country’s first democratic election.

The Dube directed series is authorised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation with exclusive permission to archivally recreate Nelson Mandela’s voice from his personal archive and to feature previously unreleased material and unpublished letters written by him from prison.

“We are decolonizing the lens and the framework of who Nelson Mandela was,” said Dube.

“There are certain nuances and subtleties that we haven’t seen in films made by international filmmakers about Nelson Mandela, because there’s a certain voice that comes with being a child of the soil.”

Letter to Zindzi and Zenani 26 June 1969. Picture: Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The series has been in development for two years and will be ready for global release on Freedom Day next year on the 31st anniversary of South Africa’s first democratic election.

Thirty years after South Africa transitioned to democracy and a decade after Mandela’s death, the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the official custodian of his personal archive, has granted its long-time creative partner and originating publisher of five books with and about Nelson Mandela, Blackwell & Ruth, exclusive permission to create the series.

“This will be the first documentary or documentary series that we’ve authorised as the Nelson Mandela Foundation and in revisiting his life, especially with the challenge of surfacing his voice, we have authorised the use of archival materials to translate what he wrote to himself in a voice that people can hear,” said Verne Harris Acting Chief Executive, Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Nelson Mandela and Verne Harris. Picture: Nelson Mandela Foundation

Made in collaboration with the archive and research team Nelson Mandela personally authorised in 2004, Harris, Razia Saleh and Sahm Venter, the documentary aims to be the most rigorously researched, in-depth and personal long-form documentary portrait of his life ever produced.

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