Documentary Reexamines Mandela, History
by Rachael Gardiner

On Tuesday afternoon a documentary on post-aparthied South Africa, The Man Who Drove With Mandela, was screened in West Lecture Hall. The Multicultural Resource Center sponsored the showing of the film, as part of thier MRC’s ongoing film series.
The story focuses on the life of Cecil Williams, Nelson Mandela’s driver, and focuses on his experiences in South Africa as a homosexual man. A quick discussion led by the director Greta Schiller followed the fim. “The film was a way to explore people who lived in South Africa but didn’t agree with the politics,” Schiller said.
Schiller was motivated to direct this film by an interest in the anti-apartheid movement. The background to Cecil William’s story deals with the anti-Apartheid movement in the early ’60s. Williams helped Mandela in this struggle by travelling incognito across South Africa and orgainizing armed rebellion against the apartheid regime. “[The film] became less a story of Mandela, because everyone knows what he did, but those who helped him did not get much consideration,” Schiller said.
Schiller remarked on how the making of the film brought her to question why Williams was included in Mandela’s biography, and how they were sighted driving together. Alongside his political relations in the ANC, Williams also struggled to lead a secretive life as a gay man. This tension beame the director’s main focal point throughout the film. A friend of Cecil’s explained that “one didn’t acknowledge homosexuals except as completely deviant.” As Cecil attempted to hide his sexuality, he also pushed boundaries in his theater direction by having the first multicultural cast produce a play about a white man who fell in love with a mulatto woman passing as white.
Throughout the film historical background was given on Cecil’s life in South Africa. Cecil was politically involved in the anti-apartheid movement, the Communist party and the African National Congress. He was a well-known South African journalist and teacher, directed plays and was a gay activist and a public speaker. Cecil was very much a believer to “go out into the world and do good,” especially having witnessed the ongoing racism between blacks and whites in South Africa.
“[This film had an] interesting slant…because it focused on not only his politics, but his sexuality too,” senior Lisa Katona said.
This film was part of the MRC’s 2001-2002 film series in which each community coordinator intern picked several films by different directors and with varied perspectives to which they felt Oberlin students would relate.
MRC’s LGBT intern Michael Hartwyk coordinated this event. He found this film important for LGBT history as the film “talked about racism, homophobia, heterosexism, and they were all interconnected in his life.”
Since joining the Oberlin communiy in the fall, Hartwyck has done work for Drag Ball and the Queer Domestic Violence program. Over the course of his year here he also helped fundraise to bring Allison Bechdel, an Oberlin alumni and queer cartoonist to the college community. He also advises student organizations and helped with the Transgender Awareness Week. After this semester, Hartwyk will not be coming back to Oberlin. His departure comes out of personal reasons.

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