Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela Thomas Allen Harris

Filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris made this fascinating documentary as a tribute to his stepfather Lee, a trailblazer in South Africa's antiapartheid movement with whom the director had a complicated relationship. The film starts off focusing on Lee and his 11 boyhood friends - the Bloemfontein chapter of the African National Congress - who left their home country in 1960 to raise awareness about the situation in South Africa. Lee's story is truly amazing, trekking across sub-Saharan Africa, doing military training in Cuba, journalism study in East Germany and finally becoming the hub of the anti-apartheid movement in New York City while working for the U.N. At a certain point, the film takes a turn from straight documenting to personal memoir, as Lee enters the filmmaker's home carrying the weight of exile and a different cultural experience of parenting. Harris struggles to reconcile some of this emphasis on politics over parenting and comes to recognise what a big influence his stepfather had over his life. Harris uses an interesting style to tell the story of the 12 disciples, dramatising it by having young men from contemporary Bloemfontein acting out the little-known story of their forefathers, many of whom are still alive and add their own memories to the script. It's weird and a little hokey at first, but the style grows on you. The dramatisations give way to home videos when the memoir portion of the film takes over, and in the end the fact and fiction elements come together as the director travels to South Africa for Lee's funeral. Besides sharing the incredible story of the brave young men, the film has great insights into a difficult family situation and contains some eloquent descriptions on the experience of exile. (Chimpanzee/Curious)