A true story of intrigue, Plot for Peace traces the behind-the-scenes diplomatic maneuverings to release Nelson Mandela from jail in South Africa in the 1980s. For the first time, heads of state, generals, diplomats, master spies and anti-apartheid fighters reveal how Africa’s front line states helped end apartheid. One man stood at the center of the whirlwind, a mysterious French businessman dubbed “Monsieur Jacques.” Jean-Ives Ollivier, a native of Algeria, gained the trust of the diplomats and leaders in the region as well as abroad, and directors Carlos Agulló and Mandy Jacobson give us exclusive insight to this fascinating, determined and enigmatic man. Though this interview is with Agulló, both he and Jacobson are profiled at the end of this piece.
Please describe your film in your own words.
Carlos Agulló: Plot for Peace is a political thriller about a man who, at a crucial moment, believed in individual action and decided to change things. Luckily for the continent, he managed to connect with many stakeholders in the region who shared his dream. The film discovers a new angle on the end of apartheid.
What inspired you to tell this particular story?
CA: I come from a fiction background, and the fact that the producers wanted a thriller mood to this film instead of a history lesson feel, was the main challenge that attracted me to the project. I found astonishing the fact that such an amazing story had remained a secret for 25 years. And this was the precise timing to tell it: the interviewees wouldn’t have revealed it earlier, and unfortunately, most of them won’t be able to tell it in a few years’ time.
Can you give us a tease? What is one thing that will surprise people about Nelson Mandela’s release from prison?
CA: Without the fall of the Berlin Wall, Nelson Mandela would have remained in prison. Without the Cuban and South African troops’ withdrawal from Angola, Nelson Mandela would have remained in prison.
Plot For Peace has won the Brizzolara Family Foundation Award for Films of Conflict and Resolution at the HIFF 2013. Why are films about conflict and successful resolution important for global audiences to see?
CA: Each conflict has a different specificity to it. Sometimes this has to do with a particular region, ethnic group, religion, ideological belief, piece of land, etc. This does not affect so much the way conflicts are solved. Human stories are universal, and they all teach us lessons. Jean-Yves Ollivier, the protagonist of Plot For Peace, once said, “The other is me in different circumstances.”
What do you want audiences to take away from your film?
CA: A couple of decades ago, most people who wanted to take political actions had to belong to a party or a group in order to meet their objectives. Technology has changed this, and now for each cause you may get support from other individuals who might only coincide with you in that particular issue. I want people to take from our film the message that there is place for individual actions.
Zig-zagging a continent and meeting people face-to-face—as our protagonist did—still makes a difference in many cases. Each person has a different reach, but that doesn’t make our actions less valuable or less necessary.
Do you have one piece of advice for aspiring filmmakers?
CA: Work hard and always enjoy the process.
What are you most looking forward to at this year’s 2013 Hamptons International Film Festival?
CA: HIFF is our North American premiere. I previously said that ours is a universal story. I want to find out whether I’m right about this or not. I’m really looking forward to seeing the American audience’s perception of Plot For Peace.
The Conflict and Resolution panel will immediately follow the screening on 10/13. Panelists include: Jean-Yves Ollivier, subject of the film; Stephen Smith, writer and Duke University adjunct professor of African Studies and Cultural Anthropology; Michael Ledeen, political analyst; Coralie Charriol Paul, president of React to Film; Jehane Noujaim, director of The Square; and Sharon Waxman, Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief of TheWrap.com, who will moderate, and more to be announced. Please note: tickets to the 10/13 screening will provide access to both film and panel.
Carlos Agulló worked as an assistant editor on The Sea Inside by Alejandro Amenábar, which won the Academy Award® for Best Foreign Film, and later as film editor for other award-winning Spanish directors on projects such as Back to Moira by Mateo Gil, Planet 51 by Jorge Blanco, Historia de un Director Idiota by Sergio Candel, For the Good of Others by Oskar Santos, and the TV series Crematorio by Jorge Sánchez Cabezudo. He has also directed several of his own short films.
The Executive Producer of the African Oral History, Mandy Jacobson is a multiple award-winning filmmaker who works out of both New York and Johannesburg. She has won two Emmy Awards for her documentary Calling the Ghosts: A Film About Rape, War, and Women in Bosnia (HBO/Cinemax), and with the Bill Moyers team won the Peabody for the PBS feature Facing the Truth. She has produced and directed programs in the US, Brazil, Bosnia, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Cuba and South Africa, which have been broadcast on major networks worldwide, including 60 Minutes (CBS), PBS, ARTE, Discovery, SABC and ETV. Jacobson heads Indelible Media, a multi-media production company dedicated to showcasing African cinema and television for international broadcast and theatrical release.