Production Notes


Even though Director Jason Bourque and producer Ken Frith spent their teenage years on opposite ends of Canada, both experienced the power of music on the same day through a music event broadcast on June 11, 1988. Along with performances by the world's biggest musicians was a simple message that was spreading across the globe - "Free Mandela". For Jason and Ken, "Mandela's 70th Birthday Tribute" opened their eyes to the plight of South Africa and also to the story of a great man who was becoming a symbol of hope and perseverance.

Nine years later, Jason and Ken met at the Vancouver Film School and decided to form a company, Gold Star Productions Inc, dedicated to making quality films with international appeal. Their mutual love of music and Mandela's story eventually took the form of a documentary pitch and it received funding through the Harold Greenberg Fund.

Knowing that Mandela was one of the most documented men alive, Jason and Ken decided to focus on the unique music angle – how throughout his career, Mandela used music personally and politically to both inspire and educate. It was decided to use stock footage sparingly with less history. The plan was to focus on musical numbers, musicians instead of historians, and beautifully shot visuals that were more metaphoric and poetic in nature. Gold Star Productions teamed up with Remedy Productions, the largest producers of music programming in the UK, to help set up interviews with international artists in London.

Production on "Music For Mandela" began in June 2011. It was filmed over the span of six months on three separate continents using a wide variety of cameras and crew.

As the interviews progressed, the documentary took on a life of its own. While shooting in South Africa, interviews with local musicians and ex-political leaders who had close relationships with Mandela came about at the last minute as new contacts were discovered, sometimes on the fly. Some of the documentary's more visual B roll, like the street dancing and the visit to Mandela Square, were never officially planned and came about through the recommendations of the South African crew. These incredible opportunities, combined with a willingness to adapt, excellent creative teamwork and sometimes sheer luck, helped shape the final production.

In the end, the filmmakers were able to create a feature documentary full of insightful, emotional interviews, powerful visuals and an incredible amount of music both dedicated to and inspired by one of the greatest icons of all time – Nelson Mandela.

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