An Act of Defiance: The Bram Fischer Story

Following its African premiere at the Cape Town International Film Market & Festival (CTIFM&F) in October, An Act of Defiance recently took home the best film award as the UK Jewish Film Festival, garnering the 2017 Dorfman Best Film award. The film tells the story of a man who did not become legendary like his client, Nelson Mandela, but who was one of the key people in the fight for democracy in the country in the fifties and sixties.

Bram Fischer managed to reconcile his white Afrikaner roots with his desire for justice, joining the struggle against apartheid out of principle. He defended Nelson Mandela and his comrades in the Rivonia Trial of 1963 and 1964 – playing a crucial role in preventing the ANC-leaders being sentenced to death – and was an underground guerrilla at the same time.

The film is a co-production between Dutch and South African teams that have worked closely with the Fischer family and others, including some of the Rivonia triallists to create a highly authentic and accurate historical film. At its premiere at the Movies that Matter Film Festival in The Hague it was elected ‘Best Movie’ by festival attendants. Jean van de Velde directed this political thriller from his adapted screenplay based on Joel Joffe’s book The State Vs. Nelson Mandela. Van de Velde has this to say of the film, ““I never fully realised the commitment and sacrifice these brave men and women who fought Apartheid made, until making this movie; and I dare say this also on behalf of our very talented and motivated crew and cast, it once again opened our eyes.”


“Bram Fischer, a white Afrikaner from powerful Afrikaner parentage, is one of  the unsung heroes of the struggle for freedom in South Africa,” says producer Michael Auret from IPO member company Spier Films. ”His work at the Rivonia Trial ensured that the leaders of the ANC of the time, including Nelson Mandela, lived to fight another day and ultimately lead a new South Africa.” After the Rivonia Trial, Fischer was also arrested and tried for conspiracy to overthrow the apartheid government. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

South African actor Sello Motloung, who plays a young Nelson Mandela in the film visited the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg as part of his preparation for the role. The Foundation gave Motloung access to the audio records of “Speech from the Dock”, which Mandela delivered on 20 April 1964 during the Rivonia Trial to help him to re-create these powerful moments.