Movie review – A better-looking Winnie

2014-03-09 14:00

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This movie was always going to be difficult to sell to an audience that speaks the language and knows the story, the geography and the history.

Pondoland, in all its charming glory, is a tourist’s dream, but Bizana is not a coastal village, as shown in the film.

The story of Winnie’s family is interesting, as is the fact that her father hoped for a boy when she was born. One of my favourite scenes is when she gets into a bout of stick fighting with the boys.

Toughen up she does, emotionally and mentally. The harrowing scenes of her 18 months in solitary confinement point to a strong will, resilience and tenacity.

She has ants for company and, as time stands still within those four walls, she fights back with a tough resolve to beat the system.

Then it’s all downhill for Winnie as a tragic character who spirals out of control and dares to go against her imprisoned husband’s advice and decisions, and alienates the party she belongs to with her militant approach.

It is touch and go when it gets to the story of Stompie Moeketsi Seipei, the monkey on Winnie’s back that she will never shake off.

The story ends with Winnie’s appearance at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

When it comes to comparisons, this film has a few things going for it.

For one, Jennifer Hudson makes a better-looking Winnie than Naomie Harris in Long Walk to Freedom, and Terrence Howard is closer to Nelson Mandela’s likeness than Idris Elba.

Even Howard’s version of Mandela’s speech at the Rivonia Trial, the famous “I have fought against black domination; I have fought against white domination”, has raw emotion and moves better than Elba’s.

The pace of the story is rushed and feels very condensed, and the producers could have dug deeper for the real Winnie story. What they dished out brought no surprises and it is incomplete.

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