Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is the long awaited motion picture adaptation of the personal story of one of the world’s most revered leaders, an esteemed statesman in modern history and an international icon, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. Based on his 1994 autobiography, producer Anant Singh, has made the first film to tell Mandela’s whole story. The epic film, the largest African movie ever made on the continent, spans Mandela’s exceptional life journey from his early years as a herd boy in rural Transkei to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa. Director Justin Chadwick helms a screenplay penned by Academy Award nominated screenwriter William Nicholson.
Multiple award-winning actor Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther, Prometheus, Pacific Rim, and Thor) plays the role of Nelson Mandela, with Naomie Harris (The First Grader, Skyfall) as Winnie Madikizela Mandela. The stellar South African cast is headlined by Tony Kgoroge (Invictus), Riaad Moosa (Material), Fana Mokoena (World War Z, Machine Gun Preacher), Jamie Bartlett (Beyond Borders), Deon Lotz (Skoonheid, Sleeper’s Wake), Simo Mogwaza (District 9), Terry Pheto (Tsotsi), Thapelo Mokoena (Nothing For Mahala), and Praise Singer and Poet of the Nation, Zolani Mkiva, who rose to fame as the praise-singer at the inauguration of Nelson Mandela as president in 1994.
“Love comes more naturally to the human heart,” said Nelson Mandela, “It wasn’t politics that liberated a nation, it was love.” This film is an intimate portrait of the making of a modern icon, celebrating Mandela’s extraordinary journey, and exploring the Mandela unknown to most of the world—the lover of fancy cars, a ladies’ man, the boxing enthusiast and playboy, the skillful lawyer and freedom fighter.
“My instincts told me that I should concentrate the story on him as a man,” said director Justin Chadwick. “I had an instinct about Idris (Elba). He’s very truthful and a very brave actor. I travelled to Toronto to meet him, and as soon as I started talking to him I knew he was the one. He understood how I wanted to make the film, and he was respectful of the subject but not daunted.”
Mandela’s sweeping story covers more than seven decades, and the film features him from his childhood in his rural village to his life as a young, dapper lawyer, his imprisonment and then election as president. With two young actors play Mandela, the child and Mandela, the teenager, at 40 years of age Elba was physically able to play the bulk of Mandela spanning his years from 23 through to 76.
To bring to life the formidable and multifarious woman who is both loved and hated, the filmmakers turned to Naomie Harris who had delivered a commanding performance in The First Grader.
“Winnie is propelled from life as a young bride and mother to the harsh reality of being married to a political prisoner, abandoned with two young children,” said Harris. “In order to survive, she has to draw on an incredible strength as she is victimized and harassed by the police. While she starts out non-political, by the time Mandela is released she is a very militant, pro-violence and embittered woman.”
Nelson Mandela is considered to be a man who changed the world. His triumph had worldwide repercussions. Beyond his strategic political skills and fierce intellect Mandela managed to achieve peace for his country on the brink of civil war. He did this in a manner that no other leader in history has been able to achieve: by getting into the mind of the enemy, understanding the enemy, and finally forgiving the enemy. He has already gone down in history as not only the greatest statesman of his time, but also as a great humanitarian.
The 146-minute film premiered on September 7 at the Toronto International Film Festival, went into limited release on November 29, and opens everywhere December 25.