Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela

Director: Thomas Allen Harris
Countries: South Africa / USA
Year: 2005
Running Time: 73 min.
Language: English and Afrikaans


In the wake of his stepfather’s death, Thomas Allen Harris embarks on a journey of reconciliation with the man who raised him as a son but whom he could never call “father.” As part of the first wave of black South African exiles, Harris’s stepfather, B. Pule Leinaeng, and his eleven comrades left their home in Bloemfontein in 1960. They told the world about the brutality of the apartheid system and raised support for the fledgling African National Congress and its leader, Nelson Mandela. Drawing upon the memories of the surviving disciples and their families, along with the talent of young South African actors who portray their harrowing experiences, Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela tells an intimate story of family and home against the backdrop of a global movement for freedom.

About the Director

Thomas Allen Harris

Biography: Raised in the Bronx and Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, Thomas Allen Harris is an award-winning filmmaker and cultural warrior, whose documentary films, installations, and experimental videos have been featured in venues across the international landscape on television, at festivals, museums, and galleries. For over 6 years, Harris produced for public television, which included two Emmy nominations (in 1991) for his work as a staff producer at WNET (New York’s PBS affiliate) on The Eleventh Hour and Thirteen Live. His documentary programmes Crisis: Who Will Do Science? and Crisis: Urban Education aired nationally on public television in 1989 and 1990 respectively. Harris’ film Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela (2005) was the third film to make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and was broadcast on POV/The American Documentary Series. The film made its theatrical premiere at the BAM Cinematek and won over five international awards and honors including the Truer than Fiction Independent Spirit Award Nomination, Best Documentary Awards at the Pan African and Santa Cruz Film Festivals, and the Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Documentary Filmmaking from the Roxbury Film Festival. Harris’ 2001 documentary, É Minha Cara (That’s My Face), premiered at the Toronto, Sundance, Berlin and Tribeca Film Festivals and was broadcast on the Sundance Channel and ARTE. The film made its theatrical premiere at the BAM Cinematek and won seven international awards, including the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury of Christian Churches at the 2002 Berlin International Film Festival.


Films Shown in AFF, Inc. Programs:
Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela (2006).

Splash (1991);
Black Body (1992);
Heaven, Earth, and Hell (1993);
Vintage – Families of Value (1995);
É Minha Cara [That’s My Face] (2001);
Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela (2005);
Marriage Equality: Byron Rushing and the Fight for Fairness (2010);
Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People (2014).