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On February 13, 1990, two days after his release from prison, Nelson Mandela gave a historic speech at Soweto Football Stadium, proclaiming a new South Africa.
“Plot for Peace”, recently screened at the Hamptons Film Festival in New York, tells the story of one man among the crowd who was instrumental in making this day happen: Jean-Yves Ollivier, a French businessman and self-proclaimed “parallel diplomat”.
Euronews met him at the film festival in New York.
“Of course, for me, it was an extraordinary moment,” said Ollivier. “To see this icon, Mandela, dragged along by his wife, Winnie Mandela, whom I knew very well. The speech he gave lived up to what I expected, but, more importantly, it convinced me that I had been right to fight so that this man could be freed from jail.”
A businessman who worked in Africa for many years, Ollivier spent decades in mediation and peace-talking missions that he himself describes as “parallel diplomacy”, a concept based on personal and trust-based relations. He brought warring parties together in various conflicts, including in Angola, Namibia and of course, South Africa.
“I realised that if we didn’t try to get the two sides to agree, there would be a bloodbath. It was clear to me that the black community was going to win – they outnumbered the other side, their cause was just. But I didn’t want this victory, which they were sure to get, to be the death of the other community,” he told euronews.
In “Plot for Peace”, directors Carlos Agulló and Mandy Jacobson tell us the true story of this enigmatic man who succeeded in gaining the trust of diplomats and leaders – a story narrated by Ollivier himself.
“Mandela was a necessity for humankind,” he said. “It was the first time in the history of humanity that all men, institutions, corporations and associations – everyone joined around a common cause. Apart from a few white people in South Africa, this was the first time in history there was unanimous consensus around one man. It was amazing.”
Mandela first met Ollivier several days after the Soweto stadium speech. In 1995, the new president rewarded him with the country’s highest civil distinction, “Grand Officer of the Order of Good Hope”.
“I only have one regret,” he said, “and that is that the movie wasn’t made a few years earlier. If it had been made earlier, we could have had Mandela in it. I am sure he would have agreed to be part of the film.”
Based on a screenplay by Le Monde’s former Africa editor, Stephen W Smith, the film is more of “narrative thriller” than a traditional documentary.
“Plot for Peace” was premiered in the UK this summer and is expected to be released next year.