Nicolas Champeaux, director of ‘The State Against Mandela,’ discusses filmmaking in lecture

Nicolas Champeaux, a French-American director, screenwriter and journalist, discussed the role of documentaries as national archives in a lecture organized by the Department of Media at Birzeit University on Monday, April 8, 2019. 

Champeaux discussed his experience in directing films that capture and reproduce pivotal moments in history such as “The State Against Mandela and the Others” and “Accused No. 2: Walter Sisulu,” highlighting the challenges that he faced in the making of the documentaries.

In producing “The State,” Champeaux said he relied on animation and interviews to bring to life select recorded extracts from the existing 256 hours of remastered material that documents the infamous Rivonia Trial, adding that organizing the interviews proved to be difficult because some of those who stood trial during the nine-month-long court case that began on October 9, 1963, have passed away. 

Stressing the importance of documentaries in archiving the everyday struggle of Palestinians, Champeaux advised filmmakers to base their documentaries around a story through which they can appeal to human emotions to reach a wider audience. He also cautioned against using filmmaking tropes and clichés, urging the attendees to utilize creative cinematography and stories. 

“The State Against Mandela and the Others” was screened on the university’s campus on Thursday, March 28, 2019, by the student-led Cinema Club that regularly hosts screenings of films chosen by its members.