The standing ovation lasted for about five minutes as the credits rolled after the African premiere of the film Winnie at the Encounters SA International Documentary Festival in Johannesburg in June last year.
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, the subject of the film, was sitting in the packed audience dotted with Cabinet ministers in the Ster-Kinekor theatre in Newtown – and she was beaming.
“She was moved to tears at the premiere. She was speechless at first, during the standing ovation. There was so much emotion in the cinema and she was initially overwhelmed,” the film’s director, Pascale Lamche, told City Press this week, adding that Madikizela-Mandela hugged and kissed her warmly “and with great strength”.
Lamche returned to the country on Friday to attend Madikizela-Mandela’s funeral on Saturday.
As the nation prepared for the funeral this week, the documentary trended on Twitter and got South Africans talking when it was broadcast on eNCA and e.tv, which won the rights to screen it ahead of the SABC.
In Winnie, Madikizela-Mandela answers her critics and gives her version of history that was distorted by the apartheid state’s stratcom division.
Stratcom was used to generate disinformation, propaganda and smear campaigns against anti-apartheid activists, Madikizela-Mandela foremost among them.
According to the production team on the film, Lamche was anxious ahead of the screening, unsure what Madikizela-Mandela would think of her film as it was the first time she was seeing it after being interviewed on camera at length.
After the screening Lamche and Madikizela-Mandela had an intense chat.
“She said it was the first time she recognised herself in a film. She said she was ‘in awe’. She thanked me for my courage and hard work,” said Lamche, who said she was reluctant to take too much credit or “blow my own trumpet”.
Madikizela-Mandela “also said she couldn’t believe what I’d managed to find”.
In the documentary, security branch operative and stratcom chief Vic McPherson admits that journalists were paid to construct negative reports about the struggle icon.
On social media this week many bemoaned that Madikizela-Mandela had not had a chance to watch the documentary that vindicates her, but Lamche set the record straight.
The organisers of Encounters say that this year’s festival, which opens on May 31, is another big year for women’s films, with some big screenings set to be announced in the coming week.