The film Mandela's Gun tells the story of a young Nelson Mandela and the symbolism of his side-arm weapon. A semiautomatic Makarov pistol given to him by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, the gun came to represent his revolutionary awakening and the start of the armed struggle against apartheid.
On his clandestine return to South Africa in 1962, Mandela feared imminent capture by the apartheid government. So he wrapped his gun in foil and heavy-duty military material and buried it under a tin plate on Liliesleaf farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg.
The new film, directed by Bafta-winning British director John Irvin (The Dogs of War and Hamburger Hill), uses a mix of documentary footage, interviews with South African anti-apartheid activists, and dramatisations of Mandela's journey. Mandela's Gun was filmed in Algeria, Ethiopia, Botswana and South Africa.
Mandela is played by renowned local actor Tumisho Masha. After more than 20 major film and TV productions on Mandela, it is the first time a South African actor portrays the iconic leader.
Countdown to the opening movie for the inuagural #JoburgFilmFestival Mandela's Gun happening tonight. 1 city. 20 venues #WeLoveFilm pic.twitter.com/1Thr4cxpDw
— Joburg Film Festival (@JoburgFilmFest) October 28, 2016
Variety that the long process of bringing the story to screen was similar to the remarkable, pan-African trip Mandela made as a young freedom fighter in exile. "As we uncovered more information through research, the story grew and…led us to film across the African continent, as we tried to bring to life this amazing, untold journey."
Mandela's Gun to open on 28th October at #JoburgFilmFestival. Check out the latest scoop on @ScreenAfrica pic.twitter.com/SOXHJaZsc9
— Joburg Film Festival (@JoburgFilmFest) October 17, 2016
Guns buried 20 paces from the kitchen
The story of the hidden weapon was only revealed after Mandela was released from prison in 1990, during his first visit to Liliesleaf in 30 years. The late veteran journalist Allister Sparks recalled being with Mandela at the time. He told the Mail & Guardian in 2011: "He was reminiscing about all the things that had gone on while he was there. He (asked) the house maid, 'Where's the kitchen? I buried some weapons here 20 paces from the kitchen.'
"We went to the kitchen and he stepped out his paces but by the time he got to 10 he hit the garden wall. So it was over in the neighbour's property. We never found it and Nick Wolpe (Liliesleaf Trust chief executive)has been digging ever since."
Negotiations for the sale of the neighbouring property have been underway for over five years. But the gun has still not been found.
The film will be on at Ster-Kinekor cinemas in November and December 2016.