Nelson Mandela. 1918 - 2013
In many ways, the life of Nelson Mandela has been one that looks almost tailored to be told in film. His long fight against Apartheid leading him to be a political prisoner for more than 20 years, and his sincere efforts to reconcile the same people who had imprisoned him once he came to power, is one that speaks about the unbreakable human spirit for freedom and forgiveness.
The films on the Madiba has been focused on various times of his extraordinary life as much as the books that have been written about them. Although the world has lost one of its most iconic symbols for equality, unity and perseverance, his legacy can never be forgotten as long as his story is told as we look back on the films that have depicted the Nobel Peace Prize laureate that will continue to inspire us.
In one the earliest movies to tell the story of Nelson Mandela, Danny Glover plays as "Mandela" in this HBO TV Movie that traces Mandela's early days as a law student in the 1940s to his active involvement in politics and eventual imprisonment until the 1980s.
"Mandela" was made in 1986 while the real Nelson Mandela was still in prison, so there wasn't any photographs of him at the time since his sentencing in 1962. Aside from sharing the same zodiac, Glover created an image of Mandela based on his knowledge and readings of Mandela's letters to his then wife, Winnie. Glover was also personally involved with the anti-apartheid struggle that helped him to connect with his character so well that it earned him an Emmy award for his performance.
After Mandela's release from prison that came just three years after "Mandela" was broadcast, Glover would meet the man himself on Mandela's first visit to the United States.
Goodbye Bafana (2007)
Based on the autobiography of the same name by James Gregory, who was the prison warden in charge of Mandela, "Goodbye Bafana" explores his amicable relationship with Mandela during his 27 long years of incarceration.
Directed by Billie August, with Dennis Haysbert playing as Mandela and Joseph Fiennes as James Gregory, "Goodbye Bafana" is more than just the story of the sufferings, from the physical, psychological and emotional punishments, that Mandela had been through. It was also about the prevalent racial realities for both blacks and whites living in South Africa during the Apartheid, and the difficult barriers that had to be overcome for two people of different races to understand each other as human beings.
It may be peculiar to tell the story of Mandela through a sports movie, but Clint Eastwood's "Invictus" with Morgan Freeman as Mandela is a powerful story of how sports can become something much greater.
Based on the book by John Carlin, "Invictus" is set during the hosting of the 1995 Rugby World Cup in South Africa shortly after Mandela takes office as the first black President of South Africa. Although most can see the release of Mandela from prison as the end of his political struggle, but "Invictus" strongly captures the early challenges of Mandela's presidency when racial tensions are still delicate, even after the dismantling of Apartheid.
This uplifting story of Mandela's faith to entrust his hopes of building a better nation to white captain François Pienaar (played by Matt Damon) by winning the Rugby World Cup, is not just a victory for an underdog sports team, but is a victory for unity and hope, that would have you cheering with tears.
Winnie Mandela (2011)
An adaptation of Anne Marie du Preez Bezrob's biography on the second wife of Nelson Mandela, "Winnie Mandela" is played by Jennifer Hudson as we follow her life from her charged relationship with a younger Mandela to the sacrifices that she has to make to keep up his fight against Apartheid while he was in prison.
While not strictly a movie about Nelson Mandela, Darell Roodt's "Winnie Mandela" gives a glimpse on the personal and romantic side of Mandela's life, played by Terrence Howard, and of the heavy emotional cost it takes to sustain a love over decades of separation that also becomes a source of strength for the shared belief of a brighter future.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)
"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" is adapted from Nelson Mandela's own autobiography of the same name that he wrote in 1994. While other films to date had portrayed Mandela as a victimised pacifist emerging from the dark, "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" opens with his more truthful past as a radical more akin to a terrorist.
Played by a commanding Idris Elba, this adaptation by Justin Chadwick may be the one of the most defining picture on Mandela's life that covers all aspects of his life from a fiery revolutionary to a well-loved president and a worldwide icon for freedom and forgiveness. "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" has been in the works for 16 years since Mandela was in prison, and it is only more tragic that its wide release only came a week before his death from failing health conditions.
Cinema Online, 09 December 2013