A Screening of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom- click here to see more photos
The Ziegfeld Theater’s vast Midtown auditorium is de facto home to the biggest budget, most Oscar-buzzed, tentpole cinematic events in town and to fill it to the brim on short notice is no small feat. But leave it to Harvey Weinstein, Anna Wintour,and U2 to cull together a crowd so keen to see the film that a queue for standby tickets snaked all the way down West Fifty-fourth Street. That the movie was the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, a biopic based on the former South African president’s sweeping autobiography, surely helped motivate last night’s roughly 1,200 guests, despite the sub-freezing temperatures.
The presence of A$AP Rocky and his girlfriend Chanel Iman next to Vivi Nevo, Shala Monroque nearby Salman Rushdie, and Sami Gayle sitting by both Marina Rust and Monique Péan (who was straight off a plane from Beirut, no less) demonstrated how many different facets of New York were anxious to support the film. Add stars Idris Elba and Naomie Harris (both looking spectacular in Burberry), U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, and Mandela’s daughter Zenani, and the mere “special screening” was all of a sudden as momentous as any Ziegfeld event in recent memory, complete with a small after-party hosted by Weinstein at Le Bilboquet.
“I’m a little nervous since I didn’t know there would be so many people,” Zenani Mandela self-effacingly addressed the crowd. “I’m not used to movie premieres.” Even Naomie Harris, who has experienced the spectacle of a James Bond press tour, was moved by the turnout: “What a night . . . ” she whispered to costar Elba as Weinstein invited them onstage.
Ms. Mandela was soon buttressed on either side by the four members of U2, whom she said “have made themselves known the world over almost as much for their activism as for their music.” Quoting her father, Nelson, Mandela extrapolated the themes of her father’s struggle to address Africa’s ongoing woes: “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is manmade and can be overcome, and eradicated by the actions of individuals. This is not a gesture of charity—it is an act of justice; it is the protection of fundamental human rights, the rights to dignity and human life.”
When Bono took the microphone, he just seemed excited to be there. “This man . . . Zenani’s dad . . . when you think about it, her dad . . . really turned our lives upside down, or right side up,” he said. “Since we were teenagers, he’s been telling us what to do. He’s a giant part of our lives.” Nods from his bandmates confirmed those sentiments before Bono pronounced: “Long live Nelson Mandela.”