On Thursday, 13th November 2014, Montblanc hosted the international premiere of the Power of Words film project at the Inner City Auditorium in Cape Town, South Africa. In partnership with Tribeca Film Institute® (TFI) and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, this initiative inspires filmmakers to explore the written legacy of influential figures as a source of story and use film as a tool of education. In its inaugural year, the series takes a look at the teachings and writings of Nelson Mandela as inspiration for story.
Five filmmaker teams interpreted a selection of Nelson Mandela’s quotes through film, shooting and editing five short narratives based on the South African leader’s words. Special guest contributor artist and world-renowned photojournalist Steve McCurry has translated Mandela’s words into images, creating a specially curated photography exhibition inspired by the project that will open in summer 2015 at the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
Co-hosted by Caroline Rupert, the screening was attended by participating directors Nabil Elderkin, Zippy Kimundu and Hank Willis Thomas, as well as an intimate selection of international guests including members of Tribeca Film Institute. Following the screening, a dinner was held at Tintswalo, the idyllic lodge nestled on the Atlantic Ocean shore.
The Power of Words project was first launched by Montblanc in April 2013. In Partnership with Times Square Alliance, a short film video directed by Nabil Elderkin was projected in New York’s iconic Times Square every night shortly before midnight for a month. The Power of Words project brings together a new generation of filmmakers through the iconic words of this visionary leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, using his legendary and most powerful words in feature short films that interpret and give new meaning to his legacy and vision. The film was a compilation of the South African leader’s written words, celebrating his peaceful vision in the form of a captivating and dynamic art installation.
In April 2014, at the 90 Years celebrations of the Meisterstück, the iconic writing instrument, in New York City, Montblanc announced the continuation of the Power of Words along with partners TFI and the Nelson Mandela Foundation for a short film project.
Directors commissioned to bring the words of Mandela to life over the last six months are: Mira Nair, Ramin Bahrani, Eva Weberand James Marsh, Hank Willis Thomas and Nabil Elderkin. Five of TFI’s Tribeca Film Fellows® - US-based high school and college students who completed a year-long fellowship through the Institute - were selected to work in partnership with the established filmmakers to produce the short films. Their participation underscores the importance of connecting Mr. Mandela's legacy to present-day generations.
“As a company rooted in the culture of writing, we are delighted to see the extraordinary words of one of modern history’s most inspiring figures interpreted in film”, explains Mr. Jérôme Lambert, Montblanc International CEO. “We share Nelson Mandela’s belief in the importance of meaningful words and education. His unique vision for democracy, peace, social equality and learning lives on through the power of his words and we hope that through each of these films, others will continue to be inspired by his legacy.”
To coincide with the Power of Words screening and reinforcing Montblanc’s belief in the importance of words for humankind, In Search of The Truth (or The Truth Booth), an installation by TFI grantee Hank Willis Thomas comprised of a touring, portable, inflatable booth was brought to Cape Town. The touring structure in the shape of cartoon speech bubble has been collecting the testimonials and comments of people around the world since 2011 with participants recording their opinions and thoughts as they finish the statement: "The truth is..."; Montblanc invited both premiere guests and the public to contribute to a large-scale video artwork and express their own thoughts in words.
During their stay in South Africa, Power of Words guests were also invited to visit Robben Island, the prison made famous by Mandela, where he spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment. It was in his small cell that Mandela continued to harness the power of words, secretly writing the pages of his autobiography, dedicating himself to study, and encouraging other inmates to learn to read and write.
Mandela and Montblanc: A Special Bond
During his later years, Nelson Mandela forged a special bond with Montblanc, treasuring the fountain pen he took with him everywhere. His pen became his loyal companion, naming it his “Presidential Pen”. This bond is described in “Good Morning, Mr. Mandela”, a memoir by Zelda la Grange, Mandela’s loyal aide and private secretary, quoted below:
“On one occasion he went to Sandton City, a big shopping mall on the outskirts of Johannesburg. He was determined to buy a pen and the security detail took him to the Montblanc store.”
“Until he got ill Madiba wore the pen in his pocket, referring to it as a Presidential Pen. It was a fountain pen that regularly had to be refilled with ink.”
“Madiba had very few personal things that he was religiously holy about. His two pens, his wristwatch, his empty wallet, his ivory walking stick and the holder for his reading glasses, as well as his hearing aids. The most important, of course, was his wedding ring (…). These items had to be neatly placed beside his bed every night and they were the first items he looked for when he woke up.”