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Nelson Mandela In Memoriam

1918 - 2013

Nelson Mandela

JOHANNESBURG – One of the greatest men of the 20th century, Nelson Mandela, has passed away on December 5 at the age of 95. He is considered one of the greatest humanitarians of all times, especially for his contribution to ending apartheid in South Africa 20 years ago.

In 1990, Mandela was released from jail at the age of 71, having spent 29 years of his life in prison due to political reasons. Yet, instead of retiring and leaving politics upon release, he worked furiously and with determination for the next decade in order to peacefully unite his people and bring down  apartheid, a system of racial segregation then in place in South Africa.

Mandela drew huge and enthusiastic audiences as an icon for freedom around the world. Through his efforts he became the face for peaceful reconciliation, settlement and forgiveness. He died of natural causes yesterday as a global icon. 

Cinema for Peace had the honor to work with Nelson Mandela, who was our honorary patron in 2010, the last year of his public appearances. Cinema for Peace will honor Nelson Mandela posthumously in the next Cinema for Peace Gala in Berlin on February 10. In the following, Cinema for Peace Founder and Chairman Jaka Bizilj remembers the inspiration Mandela has given:
"I was living as a child in Arusha in Tanzania,  between Kilimanjaro and Serengeti. I grew up with a nanny called Mary and our gardener and chef Justin, while my parents worked in a hospital and as an engineer. I was eight or nine years old when I asked my nanny to do something. When she asked me why, I must have said something stupid like, “Because you are black.“ And I don't remember if it was Mary or my mother or both that then spanked me for the first time in my life. I learned immediately  that you don't play with such provocations. I did not know anything about the apartheid, as there was no obvious segregation in East Africa – I was the only white boy in my class and there was no separation between black and white, the color of the skin didn't matter. As a small boy I could not  imagine how different things were in other parts of Africa, especially in South Africa.

46664.jpgLater we all became fascinated with movies such as CRY FREEDOM and campaigns by artists to free Mandela. Astonishingly, in the eighties, Mandela was regarded by many foreign dignitaries as a terrorist, including the US President Ronald Reagan. When the German Vice-Chancellor Genscher pleaded for Mandela’s release at the UN General Assembly in New York, Genscher endangered his political coalition at home, considering that leading German politicians like Franz Josef Strauss spoke of Mandela as a "criminal". Even Amnesty International took decades to recognize Mandela fully as a political prisoner and as a prisoner of conscience. I visited Mandela in 2006 together with Artists for Amnesty, when he was  honored as a “prisoner of conscience,“ recognizing his achievements and coming to terms with the fact that Mandela used arms and dynamite as a young man.

I met again Nelson Mandela at his birthday celebration in Monte Carlo in 2007, and it was a very special experience. My seat among the 350 guests was by chance next to Adnan Kashoggi, the world's most infamous arms dealer. I checked the room for any other free seat and was lucky that Bono recognized me from the G8-campaign that I had done the very same year with his friend Bob Geldof, and invited me to his table. Despite the many celebrities in attendance, everyone focused their attention fully on “Madiba“. At the time, he was already very fragile. Therefore his family and foundation had prepared a video with his speech, but then something unexpected happened: when Wyclef Jean, Bono and other musicians took the stage for a birthday performance, the fragile man jumped from his seat; he danced with a wonderful smile on his face and took over the stage –  at 89 years of age, moving his hips, laughing and dancing. 

In 2007 I produced SUDDENLY GINA, a feature film, with the legendary Richard Curtis, creator of Comic Relief, Idol Gives Back, MR. BEAN and films such as FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL, NOTTING HILL, LOVE ACTUALLY and THE GIRL IN THE CAFÉ – the latter of which served as the premise for our film. SUDDENLY GINA is a film about the fight against extreme poverty and was screened primetime to millions of  people before the G8 summit and supported the campaign "Make Poverty History". We gave 150,000 USD from the movie’s profits to the Nelson Mandela Foundation for their joint venture project with UNICEF's “Schools for Africa“. We have been told that for every 10,000 USD a school would be built. 

unsg.jpg“Education is the key“ was always Nelson Mandela’s credo. In order to further  this mission, we hosted in association with the United Nations a "Sports for Peace"-Gala on the occasion of the 2010 World Cup to promote the Millennium Development Goal No. 2 – to bring every child to school by 2015. 

The year before, I had visited Robben Island and in  Johannesburg Constitution Hill,  the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa and theformer prison where Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela had been incarcerated. This was the place we chose for the Gala, and Nelson Mandela served as our Honorary Patron. Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon was welcomed to the World Cup by President Zuma, and both announced further efforts to achieve MDG No.2, with further contributions by Graca Machel and football legends such as Franz Beckenbauer. 

Today we keep supporting education and the fight against AIDS with our Cinema for Peace Foundation through screenings in South Africa. In 2010 during the World Cup we hosted a premiere of the film THEMBA with Bishop Tutu, who arrived in a "Bafana, Bafana"-jersey, which made the kids go wild, and with Governor Hellen Zille, the former journalist who exposed the Steve Biko story to the world, which Richard Attenborough then made into the film CRY FREEDOM. After one of our screenings, a girl said, "...I am sorry I couldn’t see this movie earlier with my mother as she might have had the courage to admit that she had AIDS...and my mother might still be alive...“ We raised funds for these screenings later that year in New York with the help of the great anti-AIDS campaigner Sharon Stone, and we are still showing THEMBA today in rural areas in order to protect the youth from HIV/AIDS. This year Cinema for Peace raised approximately 800,000 USD (including federal funds) for the similarly important work of Charlize Theron’s AIDS programs in South Africa."

Please help us to keep Nelson Mandela’s legacy alive and support his visions:
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
Nelson Mandela

We invite you to watch also the following trailers on the topic of Nelson Mandela:
  • MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM is a depiction of Nelson Mandela's life journey from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. It is based on South African President Nelson Mandela's autobiography of the same name, which chronicle his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country's once segregated society.
  • INVICTUS by Clint Eastwood tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of South Africa's rugby team to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid.
  • GOOD BYE BAFANA by Bille August  is the true story of a white South African racist whose life was profoundly altered by the black  prisoner he guarded for twenty years. The prisoner's name was Nelson Mandela.
  • CRY FREEDOM by Richard Attenborough recounts how South African journalist Donald Woods is forced to flee the country after  attempting to investigate the death in custody of his friend the black activist Steve Biko.
  • SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN by Malik Bendjelloul presents how two South Africans set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero, the mysterious 1970s rock 'n' roller, Rodriguez.
  • NELSON MANDELA'S SPEECH at Free South Africa in Wembley, 1990
  • The Song FREE NELSON MANDELA at Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday