Human rights icon Desmond Tutu’s life depicted in new film

Written by Yazeed Kamaldien

Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s life as an activist for human rights has for the first time been documented in a film debuting in South Africa next month.

The documentary film, Children of the Light, “depicts the personal story of Desmond Tutu from an obscure township in Klerksdorp to courageous leader in our struggle for freedom”.

Peace activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

Peace activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Palestinian activist Omar Barghouti. Picture by Yazeed Kamaldien

The film’s director Dawn Gifford Engle, from the United States, first screened the film at the Monaco Film and Television Festival in June.

Engle said Tutu “has been a part of my life for 20 years now as a mentor and a role model”.

“He was the priest who married me and my husband and always challenges me to give the very best that I have to give,” she added.

“It has been an incredible honour to be able to capture his spirit, essence, and cutting edge work in the world in our new film.”

She said Tutu was an example of “what a life well lived truly looks like”.

Tutu, 82, is known worldwide for his outspokenness against discrimination. For his efforts, he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

The synopsis for Children of the Light says it focuses on the “crucial role Tutu played in bringing about the peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy in South Africa”.

“Searing images from his life, from the struggle against apartheid, and from the heart breaking yet inspiring truth and reconciliation process in South Africa will move across the screen as Tutu leads us on a journey back in time,” it continues.

“The film will then take us around the globe to see the work of five young activists and leaders who were inspired and formed by his example, and who are now creating social change in their own communities.”

The five activists are based in Peru, Burma, East Timor, India and South Africa.

“The film ends with Tutu sharing his reflections on what it takes to create social change in the modern world, based on the hard won wisdom of his own life… as we see images from the South African struggle, and other struggles for social justice and human rights around the world.”

Engle said the film includes “footage we have filmed over the past 18 years, as well as extensive archival footage and stills, and never-before-seen family photos”.

It also features letters from the new book Tutu: The Authorized Portrait written by Tutu’s daughter Mpho Tutu. Tutu’s other daughter Naomi Tutu narrates the film, which features “leading scholars and experts on the South African struggle”.

Lavinia Crawford-Browne, spokeswoman for the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation organising the screening, said the film’s launch coincides with their tenth anniversary.

Crawford-Browne said the film was essential viewing because Tutu has “been airbrushed out of our history by the ANC”.

“This film clearly shows the immensely important role he played in the 70s and 80s and his contribution to our nation. It is also an inspiration to youth,” she said.

Children of the Light will screen at Artscape Theatre on September 7 at 6:30pm. Tickets are available via Computicket.



About Yazeed Kamaldien

Self-employed journalist and photographer from South Africa.

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