Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom comes to Berlin cinemas on January 30.
Arriving less than two months after Nelson Mandela’s death, Mancunian director Justin Chadwick’s thorough biopic is a balanced and fitting eulogy to the revolutionary ANC leader.
Based on Madiba’s autobiography and with a towering Idris Elba at its centre, Chadwick’s meaty 141-minute film takes us from a young Mandela’s tribal initiation to his eventual inauguration as president of a new South Africa. The film focuses on both reluctance and resistance. Mandela is a cocky young barrister at first, and it takes a cracked-down-on peaceful protest to get him involved and later, the Soweto massacre for him to take arms. He meets his wife Winnie (a fiery Naomie Harris) along the way and during his incarceration on Robben Island it’s she who takes on the struggle. He’s released as an old man 27 years later but Winnie’s mentality remains on the front line. They barely recognise each other.
Such dramatic timing should set the cash registers ringing, but this will prove an interesting document for other reasons. Since Mandela’s passing, voices have sounded from all camps as to how his legacy should be defined and Chadwick’s film might be the most balanced offering we can hope to see. Elba’s Mandela builds bombs and cheats on his wife; he’s part saint, part sinner, but most remarkably of all, a human being like us.
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom | Directed by Justin Chadwick (USA 2013) with Idris Elba, Naomie Harris. Starts January 30
Originally published in issue #124, February 2014.