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Sunday, February 8, 2015


In the shadow of Nelson Mandela: Swiss American filmmaker’s documentary on FW de Klerk, The Other Man: F.W. de Klerk and the End of Apartheid, was released in movie theatres in the USA on February 6.

It could have been a bloodbath of historic proportions. Instead, two men made the end of apartheid possible: in February 1990, President F W de Klerk lifted the ban on the African National Congress and ordered the release of Nelson Mandela. As the world celebrated, Mandela would go on to become South Africa's first democratically elected president with de Klerk as his deputy.

Many films have been made about Nelson Mandela and the history of apartheid; few have focused on his predecessor, F W de Klerk, keeping him in the shadow of Mandela’s exploits. Now a new documentary (part biography, part political thriller) tells his story. (See online trailer:

De Klerk's history is complicated. Early in his political career he was a conservative Afrikaner nationalist, a virulent defender of white Africans and their privilege. His own term as president was marred by political violence often at the hands of his own security forces. What pushed this man to reverse his beliefs and participate in the process of making South Africa a more equal and just nation? What made him the only head of state in modern history to willingly hand over power to his former enemies?

Featuring in-depth interviews with FW de Klerk, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, anti-apartheid activists and many others, Swiss American filmmaker Nic Rossier explores the fascinating political journey and legacy of this complex figure. Nations presently mired in conflict and recovering from civil war will benefit from better understanding this flawed yet ultimately successful political leader who managed to bridge two opposing worlds.