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South Africa/United States

Dear Mandela is a short film about three South African teenagers who live in the vast shanty towns just outside the city of Durban. It follows them as they join their communities in trying to get the houses they were promised by Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first democratically elected president, who said in his inaugural speech, “Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud. The young shack dwellers challenge a police state bent on forcibly removing the poor from the slums. State-sponsored demolitions and forced evictions are a daily threat, and deadly shack fires can destroy all a family has in moments. But slum dwellers have united to form a group called Abahlali baseMjondolo (In English "Shackdwellers’ Movement"). In the words of Abahlali Chairman S’bu Zikode, “The time has come for the poor to show themselves that we can be poor in life but not in mind". Through the eyes of teenagers, "Dear Mandela" follows the Movement as they issue a demand for change and an honoring of the rights guaranteed in the nation’s landmark Constitution. 'Dear Mandela' was shot over eight days in December 2007. The filmmakers are returning to South Africa to continue work towards a feature length version of the film. To learn more, visit


Directed by Dara Kell and Christopher Nizza.

Dara Kell is a South African-born, New York-based filmmaker and editor. She has edited dozens of hours of programming for Discovery, National Geographic, The History Channel, MTV and others. Her independent work includes the Academy Award-nominated feature documentary Jesus Camp; Justice Without Borders, a Skylight Pictures/Amnesty International co-production narrated by Tim Robbins, and most recently, 'Courting Justice', about the women judges of South Africa's superior courts. She is currently co-editing Skylight Pictures' The Reckoning', about the International Criminal Court. She produced Human Rights, Human Needs for Amnesty International, in collaboration with Skylight Pictures, traveling to South Africa to tell the story of the battle to secure antiretroviral medication for child survivors of rape. Her short documentary Indlini Yam (In My House) about motherhood and AIDS won the Dolphin Award for Best Documentary. With partner Christopher Nizza, she is currently
directing her first feature documentary about the South African shack dwellers' resistance to the brutal slum clearance campaign.

Christopher Nizza is a New York City born, bred and based filmmaker and editor. A versatile and accomplished editor of award-winning commercials, music videos, documentaries and TV shows, he is also founding member and leader of the Media College of the University of the Poor, an education project dedicated to using video and new technologies as a key component of a broad movement to end poverty. After producing several short documentaries such as Copy This Tape and Health Care Crisis, U.S.A., Christopher along with partner Dara Kell is directing Dear Mandela, a feature-length documentary examining the new economic apartheid suffered by millions of South Africa’s poor, and their developing struggle against it.