Wednesday, December 25, 2013

"Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom", Christmas Day

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” (Justin Chadwick) opened Christmas Day in many locations, and is certainly timely given Nelson Madela’s passing.
Even at 140 minutes, the biography, with Idris Elbe as Nelson and Naomie Harris as eventual activist wife Winne, seems rushed. 
The moral dilemmas come out.  Early, Nelson’s mother asks him why he risks his family for his ideals, a moral conundrum beyond analysis right now. (Well, I'm particularly sensitive to the possibility that a person is held responsible for other family members other than spouse or children, like siblings or parents -- obligations he could not have taken on voluntarily, after making a political protest; Mandela had at least "chosen" to marry and become a parent first.)  The prison time on Robbens Island is brutal, with some humor over the desire for long trousers.  Winnie spends some time, too, and becomes more radical.
The film plays down the Communist connections of the ANC, as was discussed in articles in the Wall Street Journal and then New York Times shortly after Mandela’s death. But is does show more in Winnie’s anger late in the film.

Both Nelson and Winnie, at different times, have to deal with the limits of "non-violence", and Winnie, especially, rails about the need to discipline her troopers. Sacrifice is always on the table. 
The South African white leadership finally starts releasing Nelson in stages and negotiating with him over the violence, which was actually covered by Ted Koppel on ABC ‘s Nightline during the time.  Nelson never compromises, until in power himself, when he says the peace is the only way for the nation to survive, and that forgiveness is necessary, and revenge not an option.  The whites who had been in power probably feared forceful confiscation or expropriation of all their assets.

I recall that the 1950 World Book Encyclopedia (which my parents bought) treats the "Union of South Africa" as a reputable country, as its article was developed just two years after the 1948 laws were passed.

The official site is here. The film has major distribution and production support from The Weinstein Company.
I saw the film at the Regal Potomac Yards in Alexandria, VA, before a relatively small Christmas Night audience, and was one of the few white people in the audience.  That is interesting. 

Checkout Richard Attenborough's 1987 film "Cry Freedom".  Also, "Invictus" is reviewed here Dec. 14, 2009.

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