Producers on the mini include Out of Africa principal Kweku Mandela, a grandson of the renowned African leader. Scribe Nigel Williams, whose credits include the Helen Mirren mini-series “Elizabeth I,” is penning the scripts for the project, envisioned as a six-part series. The working title is “Madiba,” the tribal clan name by which Nelson Mandela is often referred to in his native country.
Other producers on the project are Lance Samuels, Kweku Mandela’s partner in the Out of Africa banner; Blue Ice’s Steven Silver and Neil Tabatznik; and Left Bank principals Andy Harries and Marigo Kehoe.
Producers have optioned two of Nelson Mandela’s books as source material: “Conversations with Myself” and “Nelson Mandela by Himself.”
Kweku Mandela said the aim is to tell the story of the people and events that led his grandfather to play a historic role in toppling apartheid and becoming South Africa’s first black president.
Although there have been numerous Mandela-related docu and narrative pics in recent years, Kweku Mandela wants to craft a portrait of his grandfather as a person, beyond his political and human rights achievements.
“I felt if we were going to do this, it was important to put the focus on the man,” Mandela said. “That’s why in the research for this, it’s important that we get as close to his thoughts as we can. The people who helped guide him and shape him as a person will be strong characters.”
At present, the three partners are financing the development of the project. They have already garnered interest from South African TV outlets. The plan is to lock in a director and key cast members before they take it out to U.S. and U.K. buyers. Williams has been working on the scripts since mid-November. He’s also worked on projects in the past with Harries and Kehoe.
Nelson Mandela and other family members will provide input and feedback on the scripts. When told about plans for the project, Kweku said the 93-year-old icon asked: “How much am I getting paid?”
Kweku Mandela, who is 26, sees the mini as a way of ensuring that younger generations understand the history of apartheid.
The younger Mandela became a partner with Samuels in Out of Africa Entertainment in 2009. The banner partnered with Left Bank and Blue Ice on the 2010 feature “The Bang Bang Club,” revolving around photojournos documenting the last days of the apartheid regime.
Kweku Mandela developed a fascination with film and TV during his early years, which were largely spent in Massachusetts and Connecticut. He attended film school in Sydney, after which he returned to South Africa and began working in entry-level production jobs.
Among other film and TV projects, Out of Africa is working on a docu about Nelson Mandela’s relationship with his grandchildren, tentatively titled “Mandela’s Children.”