On the third day of Christmas, I went to see the latest Mandela film with a friend with whom I was in South Africa this past summer. We had a leisurely lunch, catching up on Christmas celebrations while munching on delicious food.
The movie itself has me wondering. I was anxiously awaiting viewing it and must confess I was slightly disappointed. The book Long Walk to Freedom is a marvelous read, revealing much about this man. The reader sees both his ‘trouble-making” ways that begin in childhood and his hero qualities. The movie opens with a focus on his womanizing which seems unnecessary. I would much have preferred to see the early days of his life in his home community and later with Tambo. Turning an almost 800-page book into a film is certainly a challenge and parts had to be left out, but I might have chosen differently.
I loved seeing him do what I have dubbed the Madiba dance of joy. I think it captures the essence of who he is. Dancing with happiness is such a part of who we should be–especially in this season of Joy. The film has tidbits that may mean less to those unfamiliar with the long walk this man made but to those who know, who have taken the wild boat ride over to Robben Island, who have envisioned what it was like for him to walk down the path to the yard, or be confined to his small cell, or hide his book notes in the garden, or feel the heartbreak of not attending his son’s funeral…these are moments that the film only gives a glimpse of if they include it at all. Read the book if the film inspires you. You will get a much bigger picture of this giant.
The movie is filmed in South Africa and the scenery is breathtaking in different ways–Table Mountain and Robben Island in particular. The acting is very good. The historical aspects of Sharpesville, Soweto, and other areas appear to use real footage. Mandela’s voice seems eerily close to the authentic prosody. The movie is two and a half hours long but it moves quickly. Some of it may not make sense to those who do not know key players–Chris Hani’s assassination, for example, is not clearly depicted. The audience must know who the others who are arrested are as this is not ever clearly explained, other than they are other ANC “terrorists”. The film is definitely worth seeing and mulling over. Mandela was a model of a way of living rightly and this portrayal makes that clear.