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ExtraVirgin April 2010
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Film Another film, another American actor playing Madiba. But starring in Endgame, a political thriller set in mid-80s South Africa - John Kani, one of South Africa's most renowned actors abroad, has one of the biggest roles of his long and decorated career.

South Africa, 1985. The country is under siege. Sanctions are biting, Mandela’s imprisonment is an international cause célèbre, and the ANC guerrilla terrorist attacks are escalating. Every day the country is more ungovernable as it plunges towards the apocalypse of a race war. In their saner moments everyone knows the vile apartheid regime is doomed but will the transition to democracy be peaceful or bloody?

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Working for P.W. Botha as a somewhat Machiavellian Head of Intelligence, Doctor Neil Barnard (Mark Strong) opens furtive talks with Nelson Mandela (Clarke Peters) who is still in prison. These talks have been well documented. Less known are the secret talks that take place in the unlikely setting of a rural English manor house.

The UK talks - arranged by a British businessman and sponsored by a mining company that although perceived as reactionary and rightwing is seeking to secure its future in South Africa – would see influential Afrikaners sit down face to face with their fiercest enemies from the ANC, led by future President Thabo Mbeki (Chiwetel Ejiofor).

But Botha knows of the UK talks too. If the demise of apartheid is inevitable he intends to control the endgame by employing the tactics of divide and rule. Dr Barnard must wring as many concessions out of Mandela as he can whilst instructing the Afrikaners to do the same with the ANC in the UK – then play one off against the other.

Meanwhile the UK talks are inter-cut with Mandela’s tense negotiations at Pollsmoor Prison and later in the heavily bugged warden’s villa at Victor Verster Prison. Showing Mandela’s courage, this film also shows for first time the courage of the unsung heroes at the crucial UK talks.

Kani plays Oliver Tambo, who at the time leader of the ANC. Kani starred in Sizwe Banzi is Dead and The Island, co-written with Athol Fugard and Winston Ntshona, in the early 1970s. He also received an Olivier nomination for his role in My Children My Africa! Kani's work has been widely performed around the world.

Endgame is released on June 11 countrywide.

Watch the trailer here