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Israeli Start-Up Ad Stars a Familiar Face

Fake sign language interpreter from Mandela funeral appears in new video

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We haven’t heard much about Thamsanqa Jantjie—the sign language interpreter from Nelson Mandela’s funeral in December who, it was revealed, was not only signing gibberish at the official ceremony, which he blamed on schizophrenia, but had a disturbing criminal history—in the past few months. That’s because he’s been in a South African mental hospital. But a Tel Aviv-based start-up decided that Jantjie should be back in the spotlight and cast him in an ad for their live-streaming service.

The ad is billed as “Mandela’s sign language interpreter’s return to fame” and feels as exploitative as it is downright confusing.

The company’s CEO, Sefi Shaked, stood by the decision to cast Jantjie in the ad, telling NBC the whole thing was “morally right.” Except that they lied to get him out of the hospital, which I’m pretty sure is the opposite of morally right.

Undaunted, Livelens said they worked with an Israeli production company to get a Zulu-speaking journalist to visit the hospital in February — and tell staffers that Jantjie needed to be released for one day for a “family event.”

The stunt worked, according to Shaked, and Livelens shot the ad in a few hours. The company wasn’t concerned that Jantjie’s status as a psychiatric patient could make him unable to do the job, Shaked said.

The whole thing is pretty tasteless, but you can watch it here:

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Israeli Start-Up Ad Stars a Familiar Face

Fake sign language interpreter from Mandela funeral appears in new video

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