Plot for Peace

Featuring interviews with Winnie Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, Neels Van Tonder, Jacinto Veloso and more
Directed by Carlos Agulló and Mandy Jacobson
In UK Cinemas March 14th, 2014

by Katharine Fry

Plot for Peace tells the true story of French businessman ‘Monsieur Jacques’ and his pivotal role in bringing about peace for South Africa by securing Nelson Mandela’s freedom. Monsieur Jacques is French businessman Jean-Yves Ollivier who grew up in French Algeria during its war of independence. Traumatised by his family’s exile to France, together with a million other whites, as well an unexplained period of torture in a Parisian jail, Ollivier saw that a similar fate could await South Africa’s white population if they did not progress towards a peaceful end to apartheid.

So begins a series of gripping, and at times confusing, behind the scenes dealings. Ollivier flies halfway around the world several times a week masterminding a number of diplomatic casual and formal meetings between African Marxist-Leninist regimes, US-funded anti-communist rebels, and US and European right-wing heads of state. The political history of my childhood absolutely fascinates me as my knowledge of the world then is held in woozy memories of the wall coming down and various strikes and riots. Plot for Peace does not disappoint. It couples fairly straightforward information with pure entertainment and, even though I know the historic outcome, I was definitely on the edge of my seat several times.

Stylistically, it’s not documentary filmmaking at its most radical, but it draws on previously unseen archival footage and fascinating testimonials – including several former heads of state (South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki, Mozambique’s Joachim Chissano, and Congo’s Denis Sassou Nguesso), Winnie Mandela, former minister of Foreign Affairs “Pik” Botha, Fidel Castro’s “African hand” Jorge Risquet, and former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Chester Crocker, all woven through Ollivier’s core narration.

The scenes with the latter playing prolonged games of patience in various grand lounges begin to grate. He wonders where next in the world his firm but invisible hand might yield such change again. It seems an odd note to end the film on, but having worked his way successfully across 8 nations and 3 regimes, perhaps he’s allowed a moment of arrogance. He remains the only person to have been honoured by both apartheid President, P.W. Botha and the first President of the new South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

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