‘Mandela’ explores a heroic life, flaws and all
When you look at a photo of Mandela, you see that ability to feel for others, because he himself had suffered — defeat, abandonment, loss, injustice. He bore a world of pain on his shoulders — joyfully and willingly — and he in turn won the empathy and support of millions. Empathy also means knowing what people need to heal. And for Mandela, it wasn’t more punishment and vengeance. Even in the face of tremendous violence. In her piece on Mandela in Forbes, Susan Adams notes one of Mandela’s huge achievements: establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where victims and perpetrators of racial violence could tell their stories.
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There is a bit of a contradiction at the heart of this earnest and eminently capable Nelson Mandela biopic, embodied in the hand of South Africas saviour. Instructing a rowdy group of youths from the wrong side of a prison fence, Mandela splays his fingers: Alone, we are weak, he explains, before curling everything up into a fist, Together we are strong. As much as that fist resonates across the late-20th century Black experience, collective action is a contradiction for any film that puts its subject in the title: The implicit message is always about one great man (occasionally woman). That may apply more to Mandela than most Obamas line about the uniqueness of a man who freed both the prisoners and the jailers seems pretty apt here but youre still left filtering a rainbow of experience into one shining beam of light. Odds are less people would be interested in South Africa: Long Walk to Freedom, but it seems an acute problem for a man of Mandelas collectivist origins. If Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom cant get a handle on that issue, though, it does otherwise make the case for Madiba the great man although who but the most drowsy of parliamentarians or committed of rascists would argue otherwise is beyond me. Still, director Justin Chadwick and screenwriter William Nicholson, working from the mans autobiography, make the setting and details of Mandelas life inescapable without overbearing the point, the casual, thoughtless racism of South African life settling into the cracks of the more overt, brutal kinds. The former is seen mostly in Mandelas early life as a lawyer in Johannesburg, waving panties in courtrooms to embarass rich whites off spurious theft charges. Its in these younger days that Idris Elba really makes his case as Mandela, his artillery shell of a frame powering through twisty Johannesberg slums, bus strike marches and segregated train stations. (His charm takes care of wooing Winnie, very slyly played by Naomie Harris.) By the time he gets up in front of cheering crowds, a We are/cancelling/the Apartheid! wouldnt be entirely out of place; both his reigned-in fierceness and the increasing outrageousness of South Africas government make the bombings that follow a kind of inevitability. Collective action is a contradiction for any film that puts its subject in the title Once things turn to prison life, Elbas groundwork carries a lot of the characterization, although the Zen-like placidness of Mandelas older persona doesnt sit on him quite as well, no matter how much make-up they put on him. The major points of his life are dutifully ticked off: a patient passive resistance to get trousers at the prison feels every bit the major victory, Winnies months-long solitary confinement is fitfully brutal and the discussions leading up to his release do a nice job of illustrating the false balance between a man with a relatively simple human rights issue and the complicated concerns of a political structure that doesnt want change to be too forceful. In short, then, there are no major missteps, although its missing some of the life that animated its subject (though only a touch of the length). Near the end, a helicopter shot of Mandela walking the goat path from the tribal village shows him, proud if a little hunched, striding while children run around him.
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Document: Israeli Mossad Trained Mandela
“He greeted our men with `Shalom,’ was familiar with the problems of Jewry and of Israel and gave the impression of being an intellectual,” the letter says. He received training in judo, sabotage and light weapons, it said, adding that the “Ethiopians” – an apparent code name for Mossad agents there – “tried to make him into a Zionist.” Only after Mandela was arrested and his picture published did the Israelis determine his true identity, the letter says, referring to him as the “Black Pimpernel,” a widely used moniker at the time.
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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, reviewed: Biopic focuses on the power of one rather than the cause of many
Everyone with an opinion on Mandelas legacy will weigh in on aspects of his character that they feel the film overstresses or slights. Condensing a life forged by extremes of experience, the movie encompasses as many tones and styles as there were facets in its heros ever-evolving character.
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