Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom 2014 Oscar Contender Best Actor

Posted 10 years ago by myetvmedia

Freedom. It is an ideal for which I am prepared to die
Never again will the scourge of racial tyranny raise its ugly head
– Nelson Mandela

The world has just lost a great leader and hero with the passing of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95, but his legacy will live on. In September 2013, TIFF hosted the World Premiere of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, an adaptation by director Justin Chadwick and screenwriter William Nicholson, of Mandela’s 1994 autobiography of the same title. South African producer Anant Singh an activist himself, first conceived of this movie 25 years ago. Fascinated by Mandela, he wrote to Mandela while he was still a prisoner to discuss turning his story into a motion picture. Mandela sent a note back; “would anyone want to see a movie about my life?” Singh pursued Mandela to do this movie and finally got Mandela to grant him the rights to his autobiography. Mandela had implicit belief in Singh’s abilities to tell his story refusing to allow the lawyers to have script approval.

Comparisons have been drawn to ‘Gandhi’ both the man and the 1984 movie, which swept up 8 Academy Awards including a Best Actor Oscar for Ben Kingsley in the lead role. Producer David Thompson is quick to point out that Gandhi and Mandela have two very different stories under very different circumstances. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a powerful epic and Idris Elba is mesmerizing as Mandela on screen and off. He won the respect of the thousands of South Africans who worked with him on the film for his remarkable performance although he never had the chance to meet Mandela in person. Elba faces a challenging field for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Actor. Oscar nominations are really not being released until Jan 16th, 2014 so until then who knows.

Director Justin Chadwick said he was unsure of taking on this movie when he was first approached to direct it due to the immense responsibility of correctly portraying Mandela and this period of history. So he went to South Africa and spent 2 years travelling the country. He met with the Mandela family and discovered a way through. The sense of loss of what Mandela had given up was the very personal story he wanted to tell. Mandela was 41 when he became a freedom fighter so he had lived a full life before hand. Mandela was no saint. There were certain parts of his life that were not so flattering. When Mandela went to prison he had 4 children by his first wife Evelyn and two with young Winnie Mandela, whom he would spend most of his life apart from. The political struggle of Apartheid was played out painfully and powerfully through this man, his family, their sacrifices and struggles. This was a man with a profound sadness. At the moment of his greatest victory he had lost what was so central to his life. Mandela himself wanted an honest portrayal of who he really was and the deep personal cost of his success.

Mandela told the team; “I am an everyman and you should tell my story honestly.
– Producer Anant Singh TIFF 2013 Press Conference

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom stars an ensemble cast including Naomi Harris (Winnie Mandela), Terry Pheto (Mandela’s first wife, Evelyn), Deon Lotz (The politician who facilitated Mandela’s release) and a massive cast of extras including thousands of South Africans. This indy movie was filmed on location in South Africa. Director Justin Chadwick says he used 35mm film although it was expensive because he wanted to transport the audience into the scenes, to capture the remarkable physical environments, the energy, the crowds and Mandela’s spirit.

The movie is a powerful portrayal of Mandela from his childhood in Transkei, his education, his turbulent marriage to Evelyn, his violence, the confrontations during apartheid, his arrest, Soweto, the terrible poverty, violence and evil his family and countless black South Africans were subjected to because of Apartheid, the brutality he was subject to, the bitterness that filled Winnie Mandela, the disintegration of their marriage, and finally Mandela as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Mandela graduated with a degree in Law from the University of Fort Hare and began practicing law. He joined the ANC African National Congress in 1950 and began to organize underground groups and guerilla tactics to battle against apartheid in South Africa. He was arrested and sentenced to life in prison in 1961 for being a terrorist. He spent 28 years in Robben Island Prison doing backbreaking labour, sleeping in quarters that were unfit for humans overseen by extremely cruel Afrikaner guards.

Singh says he got to see Mandela at the end of last year and he took some scenes from the movie on an iPad. He says when Mandela saw some of the scenes he asked if they were of him. He really was not able to tell if Idris was the actor or if it was himself on screen, totally endorsing Idris’s ability to completely capture the role.

myETVmedia Essential TIFF13: What to See Part 2

71st Golden Globe nominee Original Song:

“ORDINARY LOVE” from MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM was written by Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen, Jr., Brian Burton, with lyrics by Bono.

Moira Romano

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