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Nelson Mandela’s 'Black Pimpernel' Years Will Be Traced In New Docu-Drama 'Mandela's Gun'

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by Tambay A. Obenson
November 12, 2013 12:20 PM
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South African film company DV8 Films will trace Nelson Mandela’s years as a guerrilla freedom fighter, in a new docu-drama titled Mandela's Gun


The film, which will feature both documentary and scripted elements, will include his military training in Morocco and Ethiopia, and the mystery of the pistol, said to have been a gift to Mandela from Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, which has been missing for 50 years, leading up to his arrest in 1962.

John Irvin, who dramatised John le Carré's Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, will be directing the film - a UK/South Africa production - with South African actor, Tumisho Masha, playing the role of the country's first black president; a rare occasion, given that, historically, on screen, Mandela has been played by American and British actors.

The film's producers say that Masha is indeed the first South African actor to play Nelson Mandela in a film. Mind-blowing isn't it?


The story goes, in 1962, using the alias David Motsamayi, Mandela traveled through Africa and received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia, learning to use an automatic rifle and pistol, how to make small bombs and mines, and more. He would later go to the UK to seek support for the South African Apartheid armed struggle, and eventually returned to South Africa later that year, only to be arrested almost soon after his arrival, put on trial and jailed on Robben Island. 

Director Irvin said he spent the last 3 1/2 half years interviewing some of Mandela's military trainers and members of the intelligence services in former British colonies, and plans to highlight aspects of Mandela's revolutionary stance that he believes need screen attention.

Mandela even earned the nickname "the Black Pimpernel" given how he was able to evade authorities during those years. For more than 15 months during 1961 to 1962, Mandela was at the top of the South African police most-wanted list, sought for helping to organize the mass work stoppage by Africans in May 1961, to protest apartheid and the proclamation of South Africa as a republic.

As Irvin notes in a press statement, "There is an aspect of the political thriller, the spy thriller in the story, because he was being monitored by western intelligence services, a lot of whom still had an allegiance to some pretty odd ideas."

Shooting on Mandela's Gun is set to begin this month, as Idris Elba's Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom opens in theaters across the globe.

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