Skip to main content
Share this:

‘Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes’, a film by Sir Nick Stadlen. Screening 13th March 2024. 

Join us as at SOAS for a screening of this award-winning documentary that highlights the inspirational stories of Mandela’s co-defendants and legal team during the 1964 Rivonia Trial.  

Register here

The eight convicted at the Rivonia Trial 1964, (from top, left to right): Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Elias Motsoaledi, Andrew Mlangeni, Ahmed Kathrada and Denis Goldberg (Photograph: Radu Sighet/Reuters)  

Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes 

Produced by Sir Nicholas Stadlen, 2018 

About the event: 

The film lasts for 89minutes and will be followed by a short panel led discussion and Q&A session, chaired by Dr. Wayne Dooling, Chair, Centre of African Studies at SOAS.  

Date: Wednesday 13th March 2024 

Time: 3-5pm. The film screening will start promptly at 3pm so please arrive with time to be seated. 

Venue: SOAS University of London, 10 Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London, WC1H 0XG (room details will be shared on registration) 

Free to attend but registration is essential.

Register here

About the film: 

“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’. 

Denis Goldberg (l) and Andrew Mlangeni (r); still from Life is Wonderful: Mandela’s Unsung Heroes (2018) 

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.  

For more, view this short trailer for the film which won Best International Film at the 2018 Encounters South African Documentary Film Festival.

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 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. We are grateful to SOAS for their collaboration and for hosting this event.  

Register here
Share this: