Nelson Mandela’s Unforgettable Face, Spirit Captivate Film World

How Nelson Mandela Inspired Music, Movies, Poems

It’s fitting that Mandela’s Hollywood moment would reflect the man and the uncompromising way he chose to wage war against apartheid, the great enemy he would wrestle to its knees. Lee was far from the only director drawn to Mandela. The face, unforgettable, as well as the spirit of the man captivated Hollywood. His life was a series of dramatic arcs so compelling that fiction writers would not have dared create so many trials and triumphs for one man. Its reality would lead filmmakers to try. Rarely does the exterior mirror so fully the interior as it did in the South African leader. It was a face marked by his struggles, the crevasses worn deep by those long years as a political prisoner, most of it on Robben Island. The eyes, filled with emotion, were scarred by the sun’s constant glare on the prison’s limestone quarry where he broke rocks and contemplated how to rebuild a nation. PHOTOS: Actors whove portrayed Nelson Mandela on screen In time joy, empathy and woe would overtake the look of anger, determination and frustration that can be seen in news footage of the young rising voice of the African National Congress. For Mandela’s was ultimately the face of forgiveness and reconciliation. Those chiseled cheeks made less imposing by an irrepressible smile, that arrow-straight bearing never carrying arrogance or self-righteousness in the gait. Indeed, it was the fusion of elements magnetic smile, inclusive nature, unyielding integrity and an ability to telegraph all of it through the lens, that made Mandela such a compelling figure on-screen. Filmmakers would try to tap into that aura in any number of ways. Each chapter of his life carried its own distinct journey and movies would busy themselves taking on specific periods the early years, the prison years, the presidential years, the post-political years.
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Mandela movie ‘Long Walk To Freedom’ gets South Africa premiere

During the quarter century Mandela was jailed, his freedom became synonymous with the freedom of his country. Songwriters and poets invoked his name in calling for apartheid’s end. Elizabeth Alexander, who read the inaugural poem at the swearing-in of President Obama in 2009, had years earlier written “A Poem for Nelson Mandela,” which featured the lines “Nelson Mandela is with me because I believe/in symbols; symbols bear power; symbols demand/power; and that is how a nation/follows a man who leads from prison/and cannot speak to them.” It took some daring to support Mandela during his prison years, when Mandela and the political movement he led, the African National Congress, were on international terrorist lists and opinions about him often divided between liberals and conservatives. As late as 1988, just two years before his release, an all-star concert held to celebrate his 70th birthday was censored on television to remove political content. But just as South Africa managed a peaceful transition from apartheid to democracy, Mandela evolved from opposition leader to head of state to sage with remarkably little damage; he only seemed to gain admirers. “Nelson Mandela is, for me, the single statesman in the world,” Nobel laureate Toni Morrison once observed. “The single statesman, in that literal sense, who is not solving all his problems with guns. It’s truly unbelievable.” Over the last decade of his life, Mandela presided over a series of “46664” concerts in South Africa, named for Mandela’s prison number (466) and the year he was jailed, 1964. MOVIES: Some of Hollywood’s greatest actors played him on film, notably Freeman in the 2009 release “Invictus,” directed by Clint Eastwood. Poitier and Danny Glover each starred in TV movies about Mandela‘s life and Mandela himself made a cameo at the end of Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X,” released in 1992. “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom,” starring Idris Elba and based on Mandela’s autobiography, has just been released. CONCERTS: One of the landmarks of the movement to free Mandela was a 1988 televised concert from London’s Wembley Stadium that celebrated his 70th birthday and featured such superstars as Wonder, Houston and Sting. At the time, Mandela’s African National Congress was still regarded as a terrorist organization by many countries and had been condemned by Britain’s then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The BBC angered Mandela supporters by censoring political statements and angered the South African government by airing the concert at all.
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South Africa says goodbye to Nelson Mandela

“But then it came to me as I was playing a 70-year-old man (that) if you put your mind on something you can actually do it,” added Elba, famous for his role as a drug kingpin in U.S. TV series “The Wire.” Read this: How Mandela became a brand Mandela, 95, did not attend the premiere as he remains in critical but stable condition in his Johannesburg home, where he is being looked after by a team of military doctors.
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