Mandela movie draws emotions

4 November 2013

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the much-anticipated epic film rendition of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, had its South African premiere on Sunday night, with some of the country’s best-known names mixing with the cast and producers in Rosebank, Johannesburg.

George Bizos, the friend and lawyer who defended Mandela during the 1963-64 Rivonia trial, told news agency AFP that all South Africans should watch the film “in order to realise the important role that Mr Mandela played not only in sacrificing his freedom but on insisting that a peaceful solution to our problem was what he fought for.

“I am sorry that he is not well enough to see the film, he would have been very proud of it,” Bizos added.

The 95-year-old Mandela, who spent almost three months in hospital with a lung infection earlier this year, remains under under medical care at his home in Johannesburg and did not attend the premiere.

Sunday’s premiere followed a special session at the Nelson Mandela Foundation on Saturday in which members of the movie production crew and cast, trustees of the foundation and members of the Mandela family interacted on the movie.

Speaking at a press conference following Saturday’s session, Mandela’s daughter, Zindzi, said that watching the film had been an emotional experience for her. “I found it quite therapeutic and it made me confront many emotions that I’d buried and that I had refused to acknowledge.

“His [Anant Singh’s] ability to have summarized so many experiences into one movie was simply incredible,” Zindzi said. “The movie is extremely well executed and very sincere. Madiba is often described as the person who emerged from prison, but the movie equally represents the man who was shaped by indigenous value systems while growing up in Qunu – that part of his legacy and persona comes though very strong in the movie.”

Directed by Justin Chadwick and produced by Anant Singh, the epic film spans Mandela’s extraordinary life, from his childhood in a rural village through to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

Businessman, politician and former political prisoner Tokyo Sexwale told the press conference that the film truly captured the history of South Africa’s people and the nation’s journey to democracy.

“It is more than a movie though, it is a touching tribute to one man’s mission that we hope captures his story as no other South African could have,” Sexwale said.

British actress Naomie Harris, who plays Winnie Mandela in the film, said: “I did as much research as I possibly could – watching interviews and private footage of Winnie Mandela – and I hope I did justice to her character.”

Three actors play Mandela in the film: Siza Pini plays the eight-year-old Mandela, Atandwa Kani plays him at 16, and Idris Elba plays the remaining years.

Kani, also speaking after Saturday’s session, described playing the young Mandela as “a Herculean task … something near impossible since there is not much information about Mandela’s early days.

“I did a lot of research and spent time looking at who Mandela is now and what qualities he must have been born with, and in so doing developing a character that authentically represents the young Mandela.”

Riaad Moosa, who plays Ahmed Kathrada in the film, said: “I had the honour of meeting with Mr Kathrada, who was then the youngest of the political prisoners to be incarcerated at Robben Island after the Treason Trial. I spent time with him, I read about him, I watched all the footage there is of him, and I tried to understand his true humility and his true sacrifice. Playing this role was a life-changing experience.”

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will be released in South Africa and the United States on 28 November.

SAinfo reporter and Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory