New Internationalist

MIXED MEDIA: Mandela and the myth

June 2014

Richard Swift’s picks from the 2014 Toronto HotDocs festival include: Nelson Mandela: the myth and me, Mission Blue and The Malagasy Way.

Nelson Mandala: The myth and me (85 minutes) directed by Khalo Matabane.

Nelson Mandela: the myth and me – will make you think again.

Occasionally a documentary comes along which is so good it makes you fundamentally revalue what you think you know. South African director Khalo Matabane’s multi-voice doc re-examining the legacy of Mandala, the icon, is just such a film. Matabane uses the form of a letter to his hero from childhood to examine not only the man but issues of crime and forgiveness (the much-lauded South African Reconciliation Commission) and the elusive search for freedom and justice in post-apartheid South Africa. Did Mandela make the right choices? Were their other paths? Matabane allows many conflicting views with an impressive range of opinion moving from young South Africans through to Ariel Dorfman and all the way to Colin Powell and Henry Kissinger. Matabane is not one to easily take sides and is happy to let the viewer live with ambiguity, letting her make up her own mind. Don’t miss the chance to do so.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Mission Blue (95 minutes) directed by Robert Nixon and Fisher Stevens.

Mission Blue – stunning, alarming and uplifting.

This high profile yet intimate doc tells the life story of the legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle and her career-long campaign to alert the world to the abusive practices that are endangering the world’s oceans – and indirectly all terrestrial life as well. The film follows Earle throughout her career from young scientist to one of the world’s leading authorities in aquatic health. It contains stunning scenes of the teaming life both underneath and on the surface of the sea as Earle and the filmmakers take to take the pulse of our deteriorating oceans. Earle comes off as an articulate and determined advocate of a strategy to encourage ‘hot spots’ – a network of aquatic public parks crisscrossing the globe to maintain oceanic health. She is not one to be silenced by power and the perks of office using intelligence and charm to make her case. A film both alarming and uplifting – no easy trick.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The Malagasy Way – full of wit and wisdom.

The Malagasy Way (84 minutes) directed by Ady Gsay.

Not often do Malagasy people get to speak to the world from their island, traditionally known as Madagascar. But that is what Ady Gasy allows them to do in his film addressed to the superpowers and others. The Malagasy Way is a gentle film that uses proverb, humour and wit to make its points. It addresses the way the island’s people have lived through recent economic crises by making do with what they have, taking the waste of others and turning it into wheelbarrows, lamps, sandals, clothing and musical instruments: ‘Today the Chinese make everything, but the Malagasy fix everything.’ It pulls no punches – ‘Our main export should be our politicians’. And it closes out its lesson in convivial survival with the warning – ‘Remember evil always arrives well-dressed’.

★ ★ ★ ★

For more of Richard Swift’s hotdocs picks see the July/August issue of New Internationalist.

This column was published in the June 2014 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

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