Madiba’s much-anticipated biopic, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has finally reached the silver screen and crucially, audience responses in South Africa have been positive.
The film is based on Mandela’s autobiography of the same name and directed by Justin Chadwick (The First Grader, The Other Boleyn Girl). Idris Elba takes the title role with Naomie Harris as Winnie. Although the principal stars are British-born actors, an impressive local cast, headed up by Tony Kgoroge as Walter Sisulu, add depth and authenticity to the production.
The story begins by introducing us to Mandela as a young boy in rural Transkei and follows his tumultuous journey to being sworn in as President of South Africa. Along the way the narrative paints an intimate, warts and all portrait of the man – and wife - behind the legend. Chadwick and his cast consulted with them both during the making of the film and as such the focus was on the emotional cost Mandela and those closest to him paid for the anti apartheid movement. “But it’s so much more than just the Mandela family story, it’s about The Struggle and this is still very present in everybody’s lives today,” Chadwick says. “You feel it when you’re on those streets with the people we were working with, you feel it in from the crew. The Struggle is still on-going and this film has to be worthy of those people.”
If box office takings are anything to go by, it is. Opening on November 29th, the film shattered box office records in South Africa. It is being well received in the US too, where it has had special screenings both at the White House and in New York where U2, Anna Wintour and Burberry were hosts. It’s UK release follows on January 3rd, 2014.