The documentary “Plot for Peace” reveals Jean-Yves Ollivier as an unsung hero who helped to engineer the demise of South African apartheid.
Born in Algeria to a French family, Ollivier witnessed the Algerian War as a teen. His family was among the 1 million displaced when Algeria won its independence from France, and the expulsion had a profound effect on him.
Ollivier would become a trader in cereal and other commodities with various African nations. South Africa presented an opportunity not only because of the economic sanctions imposed by neighboring countries but also because Ollivier saw a different kind of potential gain: ending apartheid through diplomacy, using the contacts and money he amassed elsewhere on the continent.
He orchestrated a 1986 meeting in neutral France of delegates from various African countries. Though ultimately undermined by Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso, the attempt did pave the way for Ollivier to broker a complex exchange of 135 prisoners among six countries in 1987. With his credibility established, he pushed discussions that led to the 1988 cease-fire among Angola, Cuba and South Africa in the Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, as well as the independence of Namibia in 1990.
“Plot for Peace” directors Carlos Agulló and Mandy Jacobson appropriately fashion the international intrigue into a John le Carré-style thriller, cleverly devising a motif of Ollivier playing a game of solitaire as he narrates this remarkable story. It’s just as thrilling as it is edifying.
‘Plot for Peace’
No MPAA rating
Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Playing: Sundance Sunset, Los Angeles