Based on South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, the film chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society.
What we thought:
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a story that most South Africans know by heart – the life of our most revered icon, Nelson Mandela. In that regard, the movie is a good depiction of what happened. You might complain that lots of details are left out, but in all honesty it’s a movie with a time limit – you gotta go with the main facts.
Although Idris Elba does not really bare much resemblance to Mandela, which he himself admits, the force of his acting performance and mimicking of the ex-president’s mannerisms make it completely irrelevant. What other qualms you might have over the script or movie’s execution, you cannot deny that Elba gave a stellar performance.
The movie also had no qualms about showing many of Mandela’s flaws, for example his womanising ways, and it’s a good thing too, otherwise you are stuck with a holier-than-thou portrayal of a great man that is, after all, still human.
Naomie Harris, on the other hand, was okay. Not amazing, but not horrible, although the weird Jamaican accent she got going as a ‘South African’ one was quite jarring – I kept thinking I was watching Pirates of the Caribbean whenever she talked. Still, her portrayal of Winnie was interesting. Although many have criticised her involvement in necklacing during the Apartheid years, the movie justifies this through the mental torture she endured at the hands of the police. Her refusal to forgive juxtaposes well with Mandela’s efforts to uphold peace, which I think mirrors well the fissure in society during the years leading up to 1994.
As a South African, the movie holds up well as an informative piece that would be useful in history classes. That said, I found myself having enjoyed Invictus more on an entertainment level. The Morgan Freeman movie had its own flaws, but it kept its pace better than Mandela, and also left you with more hope for the future South Africa.
As for how well the movie captured the Apartheid South Africa, that’s up for debate. It was before I could remember such a time, so I cannot rightly say yes or no, but I am sure this will bring up debate from various parties. There was a distinct lack of white people that weren’t police or working for the government, but an argument can be made that the focus of the movie was on Mandela and his life experiences, which involved more police and government officials than anyone else from the white society.
On the whole, Mandela is a good movie, but not as award-worthy as some have made it out to be. I encourage all South Africans to go watch it, but I’ll still hold my breath for a true South African movie, with a South African in the lead, about the father of the rainbow nation.