The film also illustrates how Mandelas closed-door negotiations with the Nationalists in which he broke ranks with his ANC comrades would change South Africas historical trajectory forever. At the backdrop of the film is South Africas legacy of physical and structural violence at the hands of the apartheid regime. From the Sharpeville massacre, to the ANCs armed struggle, Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK, as it was called, or Spear of the Nation), to the Soweto uprisings, apartheid is personified in the film for its arbitrary inhumanity. Mandela, Sisulu, and their comrades are forced to strip naked in an open square on Robben Island just for the sheer kicks of their prison guards. And Mandelas prison number, 46664, has the middle three digits of the devil. But Mandelas humour and humanity shine through in the film. From cracking jokes with Robben Island prison guards to asking intimate details about his captors families, Elba, as Mandela, says: People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. There is a looming reminder in the film that South Africa remains a battered and bruised nation still struggling to define itself in the 21st century amid ANC bickering, white flight and fear, and black angst. In the middle of the film there is a stark face-off between young and old, in which post-Soweto activists meet an elderly Mandela in a gardeners hat picking tomatoes. One of the young men insinuates that Mandela is a sell-out and that the ANC is obsolete. Counting off on his fingers, Mandela reminds the young men that while they may be powerful as individuals, organised by the ANC they are unstoppable. To illustrate this he curls those fingers into a fist. This scene is a stark reminder of how the ANC has since slowly strayed from the ideals of its founding fathers: from ANC youth leader Julius Malemas anti-white rhetoric, to the AIDS denialism of Mandelas successor Thabo Mbeki to the conspicuous opulence and wealth of the current ANC president, Jacob Zuma, who was booed at Madibas memorial service.
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Nelson Mandela Mourners Outside Home Celebrate His Life
His plan was to beat the whites at their own game, by becoming better educated and richer than they were. Here was our chance to present a character most can identify with, not a saint, and not a self-appointed liberator. My early drafts contained scenes of Mandela’s womanizing, of his adulteries, and his aggression to his first wife, Evelyn. We were checking my work with members of Mandela’s circle, specifically with his long-time prison comrade Ahmed Kathrada, known as Kathy. Kathy did raise questions about possible disrespect over these scenes. We made the case for presenting Mandela as a fallible hero, and he accepted it. Along the way, we understood that here, in Mandela’s family life, lay his greatest failure, and his greatest suffering. His chosen path in effect destroyed two families. This became significant as the movie took shape for an essentially dramatic reason: when a story ends in victory for the protagonist, it only satisfies the audience if that victory is seen to be earned.
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Brit Elba is magnificent as Mandela
But even when it stumbles its never less than engaging, and is carried by a quality performance from British actor Idris Elba. The always-reliable Elba is perfectly cast as the deceased President in this life story based on his own memoir. These are big shoes to fill, and Elba does a sterling job. Still, director Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl) doesnt always fare well in trying to squeeze so much of Mandelas extraordinary life into the films 149 minute running time. The film covers vast ground, opening with formative experiences in Mandelas youth and swiftly moving to how he becomes involved in the growing movement to abolish apartheid in South Africa in the 1950s and 60s. The Sharpeville Massacre of 1960 where 69 people were shot dead in a protest against carrying race ID cards is presented as a major turning point in the hardlining of Mandela and the ANCs strategies. To its credit, the film doesnt shy away from Mandelas involvement in bombings and shootings as he resorts to desperate measures in overthrowing apartheid. The movie also charts his intense relationship with wife Winnie (Harris) as their ideologies bring them together and later drive them painfully apart. And Mandelas 27-year detention is handled with grace and dramatic tension, as we see him and other ANC prisoners initially do hard labour. It was interesting to discover that Mandela spent his final months in an open prison environment as he engaged in secret talks with the SA government to secure a peaceful release. The movie suffers from moving from event to event as biopics often to. But its a fascinating life story, decently told and Elba energises the film with his sheer screen presence. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (12A) 4/5 STARS The Stars: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa. The Story: The life and times of Nelson Mandela, who turned from jailed freedom fighter to South Africas first black president. The Verdict: Not quite the classic biopic we hoped for, but nevertheless a rousing story about Mandelas life, carried by a commanding performance from Elba.
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5 Challenges, a Stumble and a Lot of Pride: How We Made a Biopic About Nelson Mandela
6, 2013 By ANTHONY CASTELLANO via Good Morning America Township residents march to celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela in the street outside his old house in Soweto, Johannesburg, Dec. 6, 2013. Ben Curtis/AP Photo Despite the profound sense of sadness that has fallen over South Africa with the passing of their former president Nelson Mandela