This is a gripping and sophisticated political thriller full of intriguing and unexpected heroes.
South Africa, 1985. The country is under siege. Sanctions are biting, Mandela's imprisonment is an international cause celebre, and the ANC guerrilla terrorist attacks are escalating. Every day the country is more ungovernable as it plunges towards the apocalypse of a race war.
In their saner moments everyone knows the vile apartheid regime is doomed but will the transition to democracy be peaceful or bloody? Working for P.W. Botha as a somewhat Machiavellian Head of Intelligence, Doctor Neil Barnard opens furtive talks with Nelson Mandela who is still in prison. While these talks have been well-documented, less known are the secret talks that take place in the unlikely setting of a rural English manor house.
The UK talks - arranged by a British businessman and sponsored by a mining company that is seeking to secure its own future in South Africa - would see influential Afrikaners sit down face to face with their fiercest enemies from the ANC, led by future President Thabo Mbeki. Both sides have everything to win or to lose, including their own lives. The stakes are immense, the secrecy total.
But Botha learns of the UK talks too. If the demise of apartheid is inevitable he intends to control the endgame by employing the tactics of divide and rule. Dr. Barnard must wring as many concessions out of Mandela as he can whilst instructing the Afrikaners to do the same with the ANC in the UK - then play one against the other.
Against all the odds, through volatile discussion, set backs and breakthroughs, they achieve the unimaginable - a precious arena of frail trust between the two warring parties.
In the current climate of the expression "war on terror", this inspiring film has never had more relevance.
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