A touching and inspiring portrayal of events in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

3xghiLzMANDELA: Long Walk to Freedom is the biopic on the South African Presidents life, based on his autobiography. Idris Elba succeeds a long list of actors in playing the renowned leader, with fellow Brit Naomi Harris also staring as his second wife. The film follows his life from his early days as a lawyer, through his days of revolutionary activity and imprisonment, all the way to his release and inauguration as president.

Whilst no amount of prosthetic can fully recreate the image of Mandela to 100% accuracy, Elba’s presence on screen is dominant as the leader and symbol for freedom. The combination of calm demeanour and raw emotion in his performance, as well as the believable accent earned him a Golden Globe nomination, well deserved despite not winning.

An important thing to note is that the title uses only the surname Mandela. Naomi Harris as Winnie Mandela features prominently during the time in which her husband is in prison, making the title more apt, following the impact of the family, not just the man. In my view this saved the film from a potentially very dull section, considering it covered 27 years of his life, covering an interesting aspect and outside view to the imprisonment. Also hinted at was the political career on Mandela’s eldest daughter by his second wife, Zenani. Some other events portrayed were very powerful, and can leave you with a lump in your throat (or even cry I overheard leaving the showing). This is Impressive considering the 12 rating limiting what could be shown.

If I could find one critique about the film, it would be that like other biographical films, it comes too soon. It is well known that Mandela died during the London Premiere, and due to it being based on his biography, it only goes up to the time he ascends to the presidency in 1994. Like fellow Biopic ‘The Iron Lady’, it did not sit well with me that it was made, with the aim of reflecting a life’s work whilst the subject was still alive but severely unwell. Also I felt that the legacy of Mandela was unaddressed and so should have been left a few years to compare the South Africa Mandela left as President to the one there is now.

The soundtrack should be mentioned as it is unique in the fact that it varies from regular unadventurous thematic pieces reflecting the characters emotions or the events around them, to beautiful African music reminiscent of the ‘Blood Diamond’ Score. Also of note is U2’s ‘Ordinary Love’ which won a Golden Globe and is nominated for an Oscar, both for Best Original Song. This is particularly sobering whilst watching the beginning of the credits, which are worth staying around for, for showing actual pictures of some of the events portrayed in the film.

Whilst ultimately based on Mandela’s biography and therefore only his accounts of events, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is an inspiring and touching film, chronicling the events of the not-so-distant past. Catch it at the Arts Centre whilst you can.