The documentary Reconciliation: Mandela's Miracle shows how Nelson Mandela chose the path of reconciliation over revenge when he became president of South Africa.
(Image: Palm Springs International Film Festival)

South African legendary stories leave inspirational trails for filmmakers all around the globe.

Screened at the Palm Springs Film Festival this week, Michael Henry Wilson’s feature documentary Reconciliation: Mandela’s Miracle about contemporary South Africa depicts Nelson Mandela as a hero that saved his country from a bloody civil war and dismantled the system of apartheid through the spirit of reconciliation.

The powerful 88-minute documentary was awarded Best Documentary at the Hollywood Film Festival last year.

The American filmmaker came up through the ranks making documentaries about filmmakers who inspired him, including Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Robert Altman and Francis Ford Coppola.

Reconciliation: Mandela's Miracle, may be a departure, but it began after his 1998 film on the Dalai Lama, In Search of Kundun with Martin Scorsese.

He and his producer wife, Carol, said the Dalai Lama had suggested this latest documentary.

Speaking about his encounter with the Dalai Lama, Michael Henry Wilson says: “When we finished (In Search of Kundun) we had an audience with him in New York. We presented him with the documentary and he said, “What's your next project?” I said, “It would be something about the spirit of reconciliation, something that you embody in this world today and something you taught for eloquently in that documentary.”

He said, “That sounds very good. I think the first person you should meet is Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. You should go to South Africa. That's where it all started.” He was talking about Gandhi. The nonviolence philosophy was born there.

At the time, I envisioned a documentary that would be almost like a tapestry of all these Nobel Peace Prize winners.”

He adds: “So, when I heard two years ago that Clint was going to do Invictus in South Africa, I asked Clint if it would be OK if we came and, parallel to (his) filming, do a documentary about the people who actually made the reconciliation possible — the Desmond Tutus, but also the bodyguards, the prison guards, Mandela's fellow prisoners at Robben Island, his entourage, etc., etc. Clint says, “It sounds great.” So I had the videographer that followed Clint's film from beginning to end and was able to tell her the elements I would need.”