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“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” is a Timely Biopic of Nelson Mandela

December 9, 2013

By John Corrado

Mandela Poster“The struggle is my life.  I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.” – Nelson Mandela.

I had just finished watching a movie on Thursday evening, when I went on the internet to find the news that Nelson Mandela had passed away at the age of 95.  Like so many people around the world, I was deeply saddened by the death of this great man and true leader, who united people by inspiring hope and change.

The upcoming release of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom couldn’t be coming at a more relevant time, not to capitalize on his death, but as another way for people to remember and pay tribute to the lasting legacy of this iconic revolutionary.  The biopic is the highest grossing film in South Africa at the moment, and will be released here on December 25th.

I was lucky enough to see the film over the first weekend of TIFF back in September, and kept running into people throughout the festival who were looking forward to seeing it because of their dedication to the title subject and lead actor.  Following Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) from the protests he staged against the colour barriers of apartheid in South Africa, to his conviction and eventual release from prison which led to a successful political career, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a thorough biopic of an inspiring man.  Adapted from his autobiography of the same name, we are also shown his relationship with Winnie Mandela (Naomie Harris), and her own struggles for equality in the divided nation.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela.

Although the film runs a little long at a lengthy 152 minutes and certain beats of the narrative feel rushed, the intentions of director Justin Chadwick are admirable and the reality of the story allows for compelling sequences.  The scenes where they set off an explosion, or storm the white section of a segregated train, are powerful recreations of moments in history as we watch Nelson Mandela evolve from being a fighter who spent 27 years in jail, to an inspiring leader and finally an activist for peace.  As the story goes, when producer Anant Sangh showed pictures of Idris Elba in full makeup to Nelson Mandela, he was so impressed with the work they had done that he jokingly asked “is that me?”

Idris Elba grew up admiring his real life counterpart, and his strong performance is what dominates this timely biopic, as the actor perfectly captures the physical mannerisms and distinct accent of the 20th century icon.  For those interested in the life of this admirable political figure, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom provides a good overview of his career and prominent achievements.  The South African President was also beautifully portrayed onscreen by Morgan Freeman in the 2009 film Invictus, which focused on the ways that he brought his divided nation together through the 1995 Rugby World Cup, a touching chapter in his leadership over the country.

An icon like Nelson Mandela will always live on and be remembered for the work he did and the positive changes that he brought about throughout his inspiring life and career.  Movies are a powerful tool to help us remember stories that happened in real life, and films like Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and Invictus honour the lasting legacy of this great leader.  As a writer, I like to put things into my own words.  But even in the wake of his death, Nelson Mandela is someone who should always be allowed to speak for himself, so it only seems appropriate to finish this article with the same beautifully said quote that ends the recent biopic on such an inspirational note.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion.  People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela (1918-2013).

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