There were no cameras in court when Nelson Mandela and nine other defendants were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, but sound recordings were made throughout the trial. Directors Nicolas Champeaux and Gilles Porte recognized the potential of these 256 hours of audio, and used them to create a vivid reflection on the apartheid era. The cross-examinations are illustrated by animation in gray, sometimes abstract charcoal sketches, and accompanied by interviews with the people who were directly involved. Wearing headphones, they relive the notorious Rivonia Trial.
Switching between archive footage, animation and interviews with figures such as Winnie Mandela and David Yutar, son of the prosecutor Percy Yutar, The State Against Mandela and the Others provides a history lesson that could never be gleaned from a book. The belittling tone of the prosecutor compared to the calm, considered speech of the defendants in itself speaks volumes. The trial took place more than 50 years ago, but it now feels closer than ever.
Based on this audio archive, Porte en Champeaux also made the VR experience Accused no. 2: Walter Max Sisulu, part of the IDFA DocLab exhibition in Brakke Grond.