Madiba screen magic

2010-07-17 15:42

Former South African president and global icon Nelson Mandela is a veteran of the silver screen.

The man himself even appeared in Spike Lee’s ­Malcolm X, in which he had a cameo role as a Soweto school teacher.

The portrayal of South Africa’s most famous man that has had the most impact, though, is that by Morgan Freeman in Invictus.

Nominated for an Oscar this year for the part, Freeman is the actor Mandela famously said should play him in a movie – and he was right.

Freeman is so good in Invictus it’s possible now and then to forget you are watching a Hollywood creation.

But before Freeman was Madiba there were other actors who have had the honour. Most notably and firstly, 1987’s Emmy-nominated made-for-TV drama Mandela, starring Danny Glover.

The film was directed by Philip Saville and featured Alfre Woodard in the role of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Ten years later, ­Oscar winners Sidney Poitier and Michael Caine starred as Mandela and FW de Klerk respectively in another Emmy-nominated made-for-TV film, Joseph Sargent’s Mandela and De Klerk.

It was yet another decade ­before Dennis Haysbert put on Madiba’s prison garb in Goodbye Bafana opposite Joseph Fiennes as his prison guard, James ­Gregory.

Since then, there have been a clutch of films about the ­birthday boy including the ­recent Endgame (in which Clarke Peters is a low-key Mandela) and this year’s Mrs Mandela, ­another TV drama – this time starring David Harewood as the great man.

Next up is Winnie, much mired in controversy, in which Oscar nominee Terrence Howard takes his turn as Mandela with Jennifer Hudson starring as ­Winnie.

That’s just a selection of the films portraying Madiba. There is also a video store worth of ­documentaries about him and his long walk to freedom.

Most notable is Angus Gibson and Jo Menell’s 1996 Oscar-nominated documentary, Mandela.

Add to that almost 50 ­documentaries that include ­interviews with him and a lot more where archival footage of him is ­featured – from shows you would expect him to feature in (Biography of the Millennium: 100 people, 1 000 years) to ones you wouldn’t (Star Trek ­Enterprise: Storm Front Part 2).

The fact that Mandela has been portrayed so often in film is testament to his legendary ­status – a man who has had such an impact on everyone past, present and future that though he is a South African, the world lays claim to his ­legacy too.

Even the Huxtables’ ­grandchildren were called Nelson and Winnie back in the The ­Cosby Show’s heyday.

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