From Nelson Mandela to Steve Biko: Alexi Bizos on how his dad’s legacy became a documentary

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The Greek Festival of Sydney, proudly supported by Bank of Sydney, and in collaboration with the Hellenic Australian Lawyers Association of NSW, will present a special tribute documentary at the Greek Film Festival this year on George Bizos – the highly esteemed lawyer of Nelson Mandela.

Titled ‘George Bizos ICON,’ the documentary will focus on the touching story of how Bizos, a teenage refugee from Greece who passed away in 2020, became a relentless human-rights lawyer in the crucible of a violent racist regime in South Africa.

Over decades, Bizos represented revolutionaries including Mandela, Steve Biko, Chris Hani, and many others in the brutal search for the truth within a dramatic political chess game, and a negotiated end to apartheid.

The Greek Film Festival in Sydney will hold a special screening of the documentary at Palace Cinema Norton on Sunday, October 22 at 4pm. The screening will be attended by Bizos’ son Alexi Bizos and director Jane Lipman, and it will be followed by a Q&A session.

Ahead of his arrival in Australia for the Festival, The Greek Herald spoke with Alexi to find out more about his father and what people can expect from the documentary.

george bizos icon
Film poster for ‘George Bizos Icon’

How did the documentary on George Bizos come about?

The making of the film has taken more than three years. It started before George Bizos’ death in September 2020 in South Africa. Initially commissioned by Mnet, a Digital Satellite Television Service in South Africa, it was bolstered by the generous funding of the Georgiou Brothers (George and Basil) in Perth, Australia, both lawyers and colleagues of George before they emigrated to Australia. We thank them for their great contribution, both in their funding and their continued interest in continuing the legacy of our father, George Bizos. 

Other funds were collected too from other sources as the documentary is rich in national and international archives that needed substantial funds. We are pleased to report that the George Bizos Documentary entity has the rights outside of Africa, and profits in sales of the documentary outside of Africa will be going to causes close to the late George Bizos.

Tell me a little bit about the George Bizos documentary. What can people expect when they go to watch it?  

The film mixes the personal and the political in the eventful, large and long life of George Bizos. Born in a remote part of Greece in 1927, he becomes a young teenage refugee in 1941 after he and his father assist New Zealand soldiers in escaping the Nazi occupation.

george bizos icon
Screenshot from the George Bizos documentary.

His journey ends up in South Africa from 1948 as a student political activist where he recognises racial injustice and becomes a fighter (as a lawyer) for justice, democracy, the rule of law, and constitutionalism until his death in 2020. Having been involved in pivotal cases over the decades, including the principled defence of Nelson Mandela and others, he remains independent and resolute in holding government to account in the democratic era since 1994.

Why do you think it’s important to share George’s story? 

The importance of George’s story is that during this time of a tendency to populism and fascism, George championed the fight for justice, the rule of law, democracy and constitutionalism, and also shows the power of actions like George’s in bringing change to the world.

george bizos icon
George Bizos (centre) was a relentless human-rights lawyer in the crucible of a violent racist regime in South Africa.

Alexi, as the son of George Bizos, how does the documentary capture your dad’s true essence? Do you have any memories of him you’d like to share?  

The film in part tells much of the essence. I look forward to the Q&As at the screenings, together with my partner and the Executive Director of the film, Jane Lipman, to share more.

You’re attending the Sydney premiere of the documentary. How does that feel? 

We are pleased to be attending and look forward to engaging with the audience in respect of the film. We also very much appreciate the offer of 25 per cent of the ticket sales of the screenings in Australia going to the George Bizos SAHETI Scholarship and Bursary Fund.

Is there anything else you’d like to say? 

Look forward to our visit to Australia.

The screening of the film is supported by the Australian alumni of Witwatersrand University of Johannesburg. For more information, please visit https://greekfilmfestival.com.au/sydney  

Event Details:

  • WHAT: George Bizos Icon – Documentary  
  • WHEN: 22 October 2023 at 4:00 pm
  • WHERE: Palace Norton Street, Leichhardt (99 Norton Street, Leichhardt, NSW 2040)
  • BOOK: https://tinyurl.com/ynnj3faj

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