Films to Watch: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom

By Thato Magano (@pothaeto)

I say a brushstroke experience because that is what the film is. Though the rights to the book were acquired as early as the book had been published, with several screenplay redrafts over the years, the version that was finally settled on felt like it was too much and too rushed for the 146 minutes that is its duration. Understandably, it was quite a task to try and congest seventy six years into two hours of screen time.

Director: Justin Chadwick

Cast: Idris Elba, Naomie Harris, Terry Pheto, Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa

Perhaps one of the most anticipated books to be adapted into a feature film, director Justin Chadwick’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, based on Nelson Mandela’s 1995 autobiography of the same name, could not have been released at a more delicate time in the life of the man himself and the life of the country the book is based on.

Starring Idris Elba, the film is a brushstroke experience of the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. It tells the narrative of the man from his early years in the Transkei, moving to Johannesburg and becoming a lawyer, his first marriage to Evelyn Mase as well as his budding romance and resultant unsettled marriage to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. It also details how life events conspire to raise him to global icon of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and how he spends years on the run from security police, aptly named ‘the black pimpernel’, to his eventual capture and life sentence on Robben Island with his fellow ANC comrades, and his ultimate release to being the founding father of the new South Africa.

I say a brushstroke experience because that is what the film is. Though the rights to the book were acquired as early as the book had been published, with several screenplay redrafts over the years, the version that was finally settled on felt like it was too much and too rushed for the 146 minutes that is its duration. Understandably, it was quite a task to try and congest seventy six years into two hours of screen time.

Elba delivers a capable performance, but you can’t help but fault him for his inability to get the accent right, particularly in the scenes where Mandela is shown back home in the Transkei in conversations with his mother. Conversely, Naomie Harris was more convincing. She is bold and impassioned in her portrayal of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and shines through the film, which leaves you feeling perhaps the film is a tribute to the dedication of Winnie to keeping Mandela’s name alive during the turbulent years while he was in jail.

After watching it, I couldn’t help but think that the film should have been treated as a three part epic. I have not read the autobiography but have over the years been told what a masterpiece it is and how much there is to learn about the man and South Africa’s liberation struggle. The story of Mandela warrants a deeper and more layered exploration, such that if you had never been exposed to him or his work, you would be able to understand fully why he became the icon he is, something which I feel the film does not do so well.

FURTHER READING/WATCHING:  

51 Comments
  1. Merely a smiling visitant here to share the love (:, btw great style and design. Justice is always violent to the party offending, for every man is innocent in his own eyes. by Daniel Defoe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>