2017 Sundance Docs in Focus: WINNIE

Pascale Lamche profiles the polarizing South African political leader and activist.

Festival Section:
World Cinema Documentary Competition

France/Netherlands/South Africa

Sundance Program Description:

Supremely controversial, Winnie Mandela has been labeled a woman condemned for her radical role in the liberation of her South African people under apartheid. While her husband, Nelson Mandela, remained securely jailed for 27 years, Winnie brushed the patriarchy aside to fight on the front line and take uncompromising steps to inspire an uprising. While Nelson was remembered as a hero, Winnie was demonized in the global media.

Filmmaker Pascale Lamche paints a complex portrait of Winnie Mandela: the woman, the paradox, both exalted and villainized in the eyes of history. Using rich, unseen archival footage and interviews with intimate comrades, Lamche unravels the tale of cause and effect by which Winnie was taken down.

Loved by South African people for her grace and unflinching leadership, Winnie Mandela is situated at the center of her own narrative by Lamche in this groundbreaking film which asks us to question how – and why – history has intimidated and silenced women because of their political power.

Some Background:

  • Pascale Lamche
    This is Lamache’s Sundance debut. She has addressed South African topics in several of her previous films and television productions.


  • Christoph Jörg
    Past Sundance docs:

    BE LIKE OTHERS (2008)
    DINNER WITH THE PRESIDENT: A NATION’S JOURNEY (2008, commissioning editor)
    CUTTING LOOSE (1996)

    Jörg was formerly commissioning editor for Germany’s ZDF and France’s ARTE before founding his company, Pumpernickel Films in 2009.


  • Submarine’s Femke Wolting and Bruno Felix
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE LAND OF THE ENLIGHTENED (2016, co-producers)
    THE LOVERS AND THE DESPOT (2016, co-producers)

    Wolting and Felix are the founders and managing directors of Amsterdam-based production company Submarine. They also co-produced fellow 2017 Sundance title NOBODY SPEAK: HULK HOGAN, GAWKER AND TRIALS OF A FREE PRESS.

  • Steven Markovitz
    Past Sundance docs:

    FIRE IN THE BLOOD (2013)
    HOME (2004, executive producer)
    THE MEANING OF THE BUFFALO (2004, executive producer)

    South African-based producer Markovitz has also brought a number of fiction shorts to the festival in the past.

  • Iikka Vehkalahti
    2017 marks the first Sundance credits for the former documentary commissioning editor of Finnish broadcaster YLE. In that role, he supported hundreds of projects, including the Oscar-nominated THE LOOK OF SILENCE. He also co-produced fellow 2017 Sundance World Cinema Documentary Competition title MACHINES.

Commissioning Editors:

  • Madeleine Avramoussis
    This is the ARTE commissioning editor’s first Sundance credit.

  • Margje de Koning
    Past Sundance docs:


    de Koning is the documentary commissioning editor for Dutch broadcaster IKON. She also commissioned fellow 2017 World Cinema Documentary Competition entry TOKYO IDOLS.

Executive Producers:

  • Eric Tavitian and Tim Belda
    This is the first Sundance credit for the Ran Entertainment execs.

  • Tanaz Eshaghian
    Past Sundance docs:

    BE LIKE OTHERS (director)
    DEVIL’S PLAYGROUND (2002, associate producer)


  • Giles Gardner and Paul De Heer
    This is the first Sundance credit for both.

Why You Should Watch:
Lamche makes particularly expert use of archives to transport the viewer back through time to Winnie’s experiences of apartheid, her role in the resistance that ultimately ended the practice, and the sensationalized media that took aim at the outspoken figure.

More Info:
For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

To experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers, follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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