South African film company DV8 Films will trace Nelson Mandela’s years as a guerrilla freedom fighter, in a new feature film titled “Mandela’s Gun.”

The film, which will feature both documentary and scripted elements, will include Mandela’s military training in Morocco and Ethiopia, and the mystery of the pistol, said to have been a gift to Mandela from Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie, which has been missing for 50 years, leading up to his arrest in 1962.

John Irvin, who dramatized John le Carré’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” is directing “Mandela’s Gun” – a UK/South Africa production – with South African actor, Tumisho Masha, playing the role of the country’s first black president; a rare occasion, given that, historically, on screen, Mandela has been played by American and British actors.

The film’s producers say that Masha is indeed the first South African actor to play Nelson Mandela in a feature film. Mind-blowing isn’t it?

A summary of the story reads: In 1962, using the alias David Motsamayi, Mandela traveled through Africa and received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia, learning to use an automatic rifle and pistol, how to make small bombs and mines, and more. He would later go to the UK to seek support for the South African Apartheid armed struggle, and eventually returned to South Africa later that year, only to be arrested almost soon after his arrival, put on trial and jailed on Robben Island.

Director Irvin said he spent 4 years interviewing some of Mandela’s military trainers and members of the intelligence services in former British colonies, and will highlight aspects of Mandela’s revolutionary stance that he believes need screen attention.

Mandela even earned the nickname “The Black Pimpernel” given how he was able to evade authorities during those years. For more than 15 months during 1961 to 1962, Mandela was at the top of the South African police most-wanted list, sought for helping to organize the mass work stoppage by South Africans in May 1961, to protest apartheid and the proclamation of South Africa as a republic.

As Irvin notes in a previous press statement, “There is an aspect of the political thriller, the spy thriller in the story, because he was being monitored by western intelligence services, a lot of whom still had an allegiance to some pretty odd ideas.”

Dramatized historical re-enactments are intercut with interviews with the giants of the Struggle, like Dikgang Moseneke and Dennis Goldberg, who weigh in with eye-witness accounts and their perspectives on the merits of armed resistance, reminding viewers of the ANC at its best and all it once stood for.

“This is one of the last great untold stories of the Struggle,” adds DV8 Films producer Moroba Nkawe. “It’s the story of the first weapon of the armed struggle against Apartheid – and of a Mandela who has more in common with the angry youth behind #feesmustfall than the icon of reconciliation he later became.“

“South Africans think they know the story of Nelson Mandela,” says Nkawe. “But ‘Mandela’s Gun’ is going to leave audiences rethinking their view of him, more aware of South Africa’s debt to the rest of Africa, and less trusting of America, who not only refused to even meet the ANC after they were banned, let alone intervene, but kept Mandela on their terror list until 2008.”

Co-written by Malcolm Purkey and Athos Kyriakides, “Mandela’s Gun’s” recreations in stylish black and white was lensed by Lance Gewer (“Tsotsi”), filmed on location in Cape Town, Johannesburg, and London, as well as Algeria, Botswana, Ethiopia, and Tanzania – a reminder of how Mandela was shaped by the surging African Liberation Movements of the early 1960s.

DearHeart Productions (UK), Delimanzi Films (South Africa), and Agence Algérienne pour le Rayonnement Culture (AARC) produced Mandela’s Gun over a five-year period as the first ever British, South African and Algerian co-production.

The much-anticipated film is now set to make its world premiere at the inaugural edition of the Joburg Film Festival as the opening night film this Friday, October 28. The festival runs through November 5.

A first poster (above) and trailer (below) for “Mandela’s Gun” premiered today. Take a look at both: