The State Against Mandela and the Others
Standing in reverence and solidarity, the room applauded as Andrew Mlangeni and Sylvia Neame, two of Mandela’s collaborators – the former being one of the nine named and indicted in the infamous trail of 1963 – entered the theatre for the special screening of The State Against Mandela and the Others. The documentary explores the lesser-known experience of the eight other participants by alternating recently recovered audio recordings of over 250 hours of the trail with the modern testimony of the subjects as they elaborate on their work with the African National Congress party and the movement to end apartheid in South Africa. While nothing but deep respect and gratitude can be expressed for the subjects, the film itself is unfortunately dry and tiresome to behold.
Featuring predominantly black and white chalk animation interspersed with snippets of the subjects listening to recordings of the courtroom through headphones, the feature is a visually dull experience. There’s little variety in the shots and the frankly elementary animation certainly doesn’t spice anything up. The symbolic choice to use monochrome illustration was perhaps meant to be profound, but in reality was a relatively rudimentary tactic. Co-directors Nicolas Champeaux and Gilles Porte miss the opportunity to infuse the documentary with some much-needed spark by omitting any kind of film score – which could have helped to establish beats and made for a less stagnant piece.
Although it’s not the most well-known aspect of the Mandela story, the audience is aware of and familiar with the general details. It’s powerful to hear Ahmed Kathrada expand on his unique experience with racism as an Indian man in South Africa and similarly, Winnie Mandela gives a touching account that’s made even more poignant in light of 2018 being the centenary of her husband’s birth. But this movie disappointingly doesn’t really reveal any information that’s shocking, or that couldn’t be guessed. To make a documentary which neither exposes anything new or unknown – and which is generally a lacklustre attempt at creative storytelling – is just redundant.
The State Against Mandela and the Others does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2018 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for The State Against Mandela and the Others here: