The Man Who Drove With Mandela | Chicago Reader

The Man Who Drove With Mandela

White, British-born Cecil Williams was a well-known stage actor and director in South Africa following World War II, but he played his most important role in the backseat of a car while exiled African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela posed as his chauffeur. After the pair were arrested in 1962, Mandela went to prison and Williams was held under house arrest in his fashionable high-rise apartment; embittered by the hopelessness of reform, he fled the country and died in London in the late 70s. Directed by Greta Schiller (Before Stonewall) and written by South African journalist Mark Gevisser, this British-South African coproduction (1998) is a sensitive, technically assured blend of documentary (interviews, newsreels, home movies) and dramatization (portrayed by Corin Redgrave, the soft-spoken Williams ruminates from beyond the grave on topics ranging from his adolescent affair with a scoutmaster to apartheid's crushing restrictions on speech, travel, and association). The actor's personal journey becomes a mirror of South Africa's transformation from a British imperial outpost to a fascist republic to a multiracial democracy with a remarkably progressive social policy—under Mandela, it became the first nation to give explicit constitutional protection to homosexuals. 82 min.

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