Movie captures the evils of apartheid South Africa
By Raymond Jackson
“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, only one finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibility, and I dare not linger, for my walk is not ended.” — Nelson Mandela
Born July 18, 1918, Nelson Mandela died December 5, 2013 just as the movie reviews were being released of the story of this great icon: MANDELA: Long Walk to Freedom. This movie spans his 95-year lifetime from early childhood to becoming the president of South Africa. Long Walk to Freedom is quite descriptive of Nelson Mandela’s journey, which included 27 years of incarceration.
Although this is not the first silver screen production portraying the South African anti-apartheid leader, it has to be the best yet, detailing parts of his life little known to most. It stars Idris Alba as Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s wife, both of whom have become Academy Award and Oscar nominees.
They are both British-born actors who remain highly honored to have been cast to play the roles of Nelson and Winnie Mandela. Idris stated in the January 6 issue of Jet magazine, “At first I was not sure that the role was for me. I expected they would want an older actor, someone more distinguished, like a Denzel Washington.” For those of us who remember, both Sidney Poitier and Morgan Freeman have previously portrayed Nelson Mandela, but Idris Elba nails it and definitely hit the bull’s-eye.
Naomie Harris gives a remarkable performance as the silent yet powerful sidekick/partner of the great Nelson Mandela, actually maintaining the anti-apartheid movement during Mandela’s 27 years of imprisonment. Harris stated, in the same Jet article, “I felt more like a researcher than an actor at one point in the filming, but when I interviewed Winnie and interacted with her, that’s when everything really came together for me.”
Harris described Winnie Mandela as being, “a formidable woman, incredibly warm, generous, and very brave, able to endure dire hardships and scandal. She told me that the most important thing was for the truth to be told. She also said that she trusted me.”
This movie, written by William Nicholson and directed by Justin Chadwick, is based on Mandela’s own autobiography, and it is a surreal Hollywood epic that had me, at times, feeling as though I had finally gained an opportunity to return to my ancestors’ place of origin: Africa. It starts in Mandela’s childhood, running and playing in the open fields and fresh mountain air that you can feel as you sit there and watch the wildlife and youth roam separately on a parallel of little worry.
We then go to scenes of Mandela in his 20s as a smart lawyer helping his fellow Black South Africans win justice against all odds in the South African court system. He is, early on, depicted as a fighter, a fierce competitor in boxing, while having great passion and moral concerns based on equality and honor.
The Mandela’s were a family entwined in poverty, yet able to endure the ghettoes of Soweto, South Africa, which showed how debilitating and evil apartheid really was for Black South Africans. This treatment led many to turn on each other with violence, bloodshed and death.
There are very touching scenes of Nelson and Winnie remaining close as he went through his imprisonment. He was freed only because the rulers wanted to negotiate with Black South Africans and wanted Mandela to keep the violence from escalating. I recommend going to see Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, now playing at local theaters.
Raymond Jackson welcomes reader response to [email protected].