(San Francisco, CA)— Four years in the making, Behind the Rainbow explores the transition of the African National Congress (ANC) from a liberation organization into South Africa's ruling party, through the evolution of the relationship between two of its most prominent leaders—Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma. While exiled under apartheid they were brothers in arms; under Mandela they loyally labored to build a non-racial state; now they are bitter rivals. As the poor citizens of South Africa desperately seek hope through change and the elite fight for the spoils of victory, their duel threatens to tear apart the ANC and the country. Directed by Jihan El-Tahri, Behind the Rainbow is an in-depth look at what has become of the dream of the Rainbow Nation. The film will premiere on the PBS series Independent Lens, hosted by Maggie Gyllenhaal, on Tuesday, February 23, at 10pm (check local listings).
How did these two former comrades become rivals? How were the dreams of the liberation struggle eroded by the reality of power? Both men played pivotal roles in negotiating South Africa out of the hands of white rule. Mbeki, as the country's president, and Zuma, as his deputy, fought for a better life for all South Africans, but the reality of the transition and the change in economic policy has left the population disenchanted. For the first time in 97 years, the ANC has been divided. How did this rebel party — founded on trust — reach such a profound crisis that it threatened to jeopardize the democracy for which it fought so long?
Egyptian director Jihan El-Tahri tells the ANC’s story from its creation in 1912, examining the progression of the party’s transition from a Liberation movement to a ruling power — and the resulting consequences for South Africa. The documentary delves into the critical moments shaping the country’s political crisis and how those past events led to the current situation. Behind the Rainbow features interviews with numerous members of the party, including Jacob Zuma, Thabo Mbeki, Kgalema Motlanthe, Victor Moche, and Mac Maharaj, as well as archival footage of historic moments and violent scenes that brought years of bloodshed, turmoil, and, finally, peace to the country.
To learn more about the film and its subjects, visit the companion website for Behind the Rainbow at pbs.org/behind-the-rainbow. Get detailed information on the film, watch preview clips, read an interview with the filmmaker and explore the subject in depth with links and resources. The site also features a Talkback section where viewers can share their ideas and opinions.
An ANC loyalist from an early age, Mbeki climbed to the highest ranks of the organization during his years in exile, eventually becoming South Africa’s president.
Born in rural South Africa, Zuma went through incarceration, court cases, and numerous public as well as personal battles in his quest to reach the top of South African politics.
Lekota ended his yearlong membership with the ANC when Mbeki resigned as President, and became the frontrunner in the creation of a new opposition party, COPE.
Motlanthe spent 10 years on Robben Island and rose through the ranks of the ANC, eventually becoming South Africa’s president after Mbeki’s resignation.
A member of the South African Communist Party, Maharaj spent 12 years on Robben Island with Nelson Mandela, and later joining him in the negotiations that took South Africa to its first democratic elections.
Kasrils joined the South African Communist Party in his early twenties. During his years in exile, he spent significant amounts of time in the underground movement and military camps before being appointed Deputy Minister of Defense following the 1994 elections.
A member of the ANC, Feinstein started his political career as an advisor to provincial government politicians and ended up being one of the most vocal and talented MPs.
Nyanda was very active in the military wing of the ANC up through the 1980’s and was eventually appointed chief of the South African National Defense Force.
After qualifying as a schoolteacher, Asmal moved to Great Britain, where he started several anti-apartheid movements. He later moved to Ireland, where he worked as a professor for 27 years. Upon his return to South Africa he became minister of Water Affairs and Forestry, and then the Minister of Education.
A member of the South African Communist Party, Cronin spent years in prison as well as in exile, and was later on appointed Deputy Secretary General of the party following the 1994 elections.
About the Filmmakers
JIHAN EL-TAHRI, Director
Egyptian born Jihan El-Tahri holds a master’s of arts degree in political science from the American University of Cairo (1986), and has worked as a journalist (for The Washington Post, Financial Times, and Reuters, among others), a writer, and a filmmaker (for companies such as the BBC, France 2, M6, HBO) since 1984. Her work is characterized by an in-depth knowledge and understanding of complicated political matters in Africa and the Middle East, which is reflected in numerous documentaries that she has produced and directed, including the Emmy®-nominated House of Saud, Cuba: An African Odyssey, and Behind the Rainbow.
STEVEN MARKOVITZ, Producer
South African born Steven Markovitz holds an Honor’s degree in African history from the University of Cape Town and has been involved with film since 1989. He is a founding director of production company Big Word Cinema, and he has produced and executive-produced numerous documentaries, features, shorts, and series from all over Africa, including Inja (an Academy-Award nominee), Boy Called Twist (Cannes), and Project 10: Real Stories from a Free South Africa (featured at Sundance, Berlin, HotDocs, and Tribeca).
About Independent Lens
Independent Lens is an Emmy® Award-winning weekly series airing Tuesday nights at 10pm on PBS. The acclaimed anthology series features documentaries and a limited number of fiction films united by the creative freedom, artistic achievement, and unflinching visions of their independent producers. Independent Lens features unforgettable stories about a unique individual, community, or moment in history. Presented by the Independent Television Service (ITVS), the series is supported by interactive companion websites and national publicity and community engagement campaigns. Further information about the series is available at www.pbs.org/independentlens. Independent Lens is jointly curated by ITVS and PBS, and is funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private corporation funded by the American people, with additional funding provided by PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts. The series producer is Lois Vossen.
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