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OUTTAKES

African Sagas

September 21, 1986|Bart Mills

And yet a third project has entered the race to put the story of imprisoned black South African leader Nelson Mandela on American TV. HBO says it's now planning a factual drama about "a Mandela-type subject," to star Danny Glover as the African National Congress leader who has been detained 22 years and Alfre Woodard as Mandela's wife, Winnie.

A co-production of Titus Productions and Britain's TVS, it will go into production in Zimbabwe in November. Most of the crew will be fresh from working on "Asking for Trouble," produced and directed by Richard Attenborough. That theatrical film tells the story of martyr Steve Biko, a black activist who died in police custody 10 years ago.

The HBO film will precede at least two other planned TV treatments of the Mandela story:

ABC is developing a miniseries about the history of apartheid in South Africa. Harry Belafonte, who initiated the project, has obtained rights from both Mandelas, said Belafonte agent Jeff Krask.

Camille Cosby, Bill Cosby's wife, plans a separate project based on the authorized biography of Mrs. Mandela, "Mother of a Nation," by Nancy Harrison, which tells how she became a rallying point in the current expressions of black discontent in South Africa. The Cosbys' agent, Norman Brokaw, noted, "Mrs. Cosby has acquired motion picture and television rights from Mrs. Mandela personally." Judith Rutherford James of Taper Media Enterprises would co-produce with Mrs. Cosby. (Bill Cosby would not be involved.)

Who actually has what rights? HBO declined to discuss the nature of its rights. "Mrs. Cosby has a signed contract from Mrs. Mandela," Brokaw said. Commented Arnold Rifkin, a partner in the agency (Triad) that handles Belafonte, "It's taken us 11 months to decipher the rights. We've satisfied the requirements of the network and we're moving forward."

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