09/04/2017

Mandela’s lawyer, the Afrikaner communist

Blog / By Bart Luirink

The new movie about South African lawyer and leader of the Communist Party, Bram Fischer, could not have come at a better time. This Dutch-South African co-production, directed by Jean van de Velde, tells the story of a man who did not become legendary like his client, Nelson Mandela, but who was one of the key people in the fight for democracy in that country in the fifties and sixties.

Bram Fischer managed to reconcile his white Afrikaner roots with his desire for justice, joining the struggle against apartheid out of principle. He defended Nelson Mandela and his comrades in the Rivonia Trial of 1963 and 1964 – playing a crucial role in preventing the ANC-leaders being sentenced to death – and was an underground guerrilla at the same time. The movie ‘Bram Fischer’ is a moving and inspiring tribute.

Win two tickets for this film in the Dutch cinema. Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. before April 13 and put 'Bram Fischer' in the subject line

The film does not shy away from the pivotal issues of those grim days prior to the deportation of Mandela and his crowd to Robben Island, with fellow ANC leaders being driven into exile. The intensely debated role of armed struggle by the liberation movement's leaders and the contested co-operation with white South Africans in that movement are subtly written into the script.

Fischer's Marxist convictions have not been left out either, inviting audiences to dig into an intriguing history in which members of the South African Communist Party played a vital role. Without these communists, arguably, the ANC's answer of non-racialism to the European ideology of racial classification and white supremacy might not have developed into the guiding principle of the anti-apartheid struggle.

The movie is released in the midst of South Africa's 'best of times and worst of times.’ Featuring at the crossroads of either a revival of the dream or a new nightmare under the corrupt reign of Jacob Zuma, 'Bram Fischer' unveils a monumental history, full of experiences and lessons for those who continue to dream the dream.

Besides that, it's also simply one hell of a good story. It has all the dramatic ingredients that can attract wider international audiences and there is splendid acting by Peter Paul Muller as Fischer, Antoinette Louw as his wife Molly and Sello Motloung -the first black South African to play him after Morgan Freeman and Idris Elba- as Nelson Mandela.

The 'Bram Fischer’ movie will be released internationally as ‘An Act of Defiance,’ but can already be seen under its present title on April 13, 2017 in Dutch cinemas countrywide. At its premiere at the Movies that Matter Film Festival in The Hague it was elected ‘Best Movie’ by festival attendants.

His Statement from the Dock, 1966, here.

The first Bram Fischer Lecture, held by President Nelson Mandela in 1995, here.

EVENT. On 20 April 2017, ZAM editor Bart Luirink will introduce the viewing of The Bram Fischer Story, a documentary by Sharon Farr (2007) in the Amsterdam-based Zuid-Afrika Huis. More information here.