Mandela Day | Film Screening: 'Life is Wonderful: Mandela's Unsung Heroes'

A Film Screening for Mandela Day

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Award-winning documentary that highlights the inspirational stories of Mandela's co-defendants and legal team during the 1964 Rivonia Trial.

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” 


Nelson Mandela’s words, spoken quietly and with conviction 60 years ago this year during the seminal Rivonia Trial, resonate through the ages. He became a global figure without peer – an inspiration to people in every part of the world. Yet alongside him in the dock as he spoke those words were eight other men who had risked their lives and their freedom for the cause of a free South Africa. 


Mandela spoke for them too. These men, their families and their communities fought with every fibre of their being and risked torture and death for the ideals they held so dear – of democracy, of the right to freedom, of equality and diversity. Those convicted – Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Denis Goldberg, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni – each gave over twenty years of their lives in prison to this cause, before emerging to win their life’s struggle for a multiracial democracy in South Africa. 


Life is Wonderful tells an inspiring story of immense courage and self-sacrifice on the part of a small group of idealists from a range of cultural heritages who said: ‘Not on my watch’ and ‘Not in my name’. In the words of Andrew Mlangeni, Accused Number 10, ‘they were a multi racial band of comrades who fought for a non-racial democracy’. 


Through ground-breaking interviews the film, produced by former English High Court Judge Sir Nicholas Stadlen, sheds light onto the stories of Nelson Mandela's co-defendants at the Rivonia trial, the lawyers who saved them from the gallows and some of the other brave men and women who supported them in their fight for the freedom of South Africa.  


The documentary demonstrates how, amongst other values, self-sacrifice, integrity, commitment and courage underpin ordinary people’s capacity to transform society where they see and feel injustice. It proves, through the legacy of the Rivonia Trialists and all those who collaborated in solidarity against apartheid, that there is critical role for all people to play in creating their own more just and inclusive futures and resonates deeply with issues of (systemic and institutional) racism and societal (in)justice, dealing with traumas of isolation, exclusion, marginalisation and the need to continue to strive to make change today, for ourselves and for wider communities.  


View the trailer for the film that won Best International Film at the 2018 Encounters South African Documentary Film Festival. In 2024, Sir Nicholas Stadlen was posthumously awarded the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo by South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in recognition of his service to South Africa by telling this story of its struggle against apartheid. 


About the event: 

To celebrate Mandela Day 2024, Union Chapel are screening Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes. The film lasts for 89minutes and will be followed by a short discussion and Q&A session with a panel including political theorist Dr Ayesha Omar, historian Amelia Francis and peer leader Guy Fred Rurangirwa.

Date: Thursday 18th July 2024 

Time: 6.30-9.30pm. The film screening will start promptly at 7.15pm so please arrive in good time to be settled with best choice of seats from 6.30pm. 

The screening will be in the welcoming Union Chapel bar, which will be open with drinks and snacks available. 


About the co-hosts: 

The screening is being held as part of ‘All shall be afforded dignity’,  a UK-based commemorative programme on the 30th anniversary of South Africa’s liberation (1994-2024) from apartheid, convened by The Liliesleaf Trust UK’s Anti-Apartheid Legacy: Centre of Memory & Learning and Action for Southern Africa together with the support of the South African High Commission to Britain and Northern Ireland. The film is being shown with the kind permission and generosity of the former Trustees of Life is Wonderful and the production company Knickerbocker Glory. 


More Information:

The venue has unreserved seating and are taken on a first come first serve basis. Please arrive early before event door times if you have preferred seats. Due to the nature of our venue, please be prepared to queue for entry.

The venue is fully accessible, with use of ramps and the upstairs bar is accessible with use of a platform lift. Please email [email protected] with your accessibility requirements.

The bar is located on the first floor of the venue and will be open from the stated door time and remain open after the show.