Friday, 7 November 2014
UK: Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom Available now with Sky Movies in Sky On Demand or tune in Friday, 8pm, Sky Movies Premiere
On 5 December last year, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge attended the 2013 Royal Film Performance of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. At the film’s conclusion, producer Anant Singh and star Idris Elba took to the stage to inform the assembled company that Nelson Mandela’s death had just been announced.
The timing of the great man’s passing only added poignancy to the already moving and inspirational story of his life as told in this film, an adaptation of his acclaimed 1995 autobiography. The film charts Mandela’s extraordinary journey from youthful lawyer to political activist and ultimately to statesman and president.
We meet Mandela (Elba) as a young firebrand lawyer struggling against a judicial system weighted against black people in the dark days of 1950s South Africa. Mandela is moved to more overt political activism when he is outraged by the death of a man in police custody. Joining the ANC and burning his identity papers, his life becomes one spent flitting from one safe house to another, avoiding capture by the loathed security forces.
The horrific events at Sharpeville in 1960, when 69 demonstrators (ten of them children) are shot dead by the police, convince Mandela and other ANC leaders that peaceful protest is no longer sufficient.
Arrested by the authorities and charged with treason, Mandela manages to turn his trial, potentially the low point in his life, into a triumphant platform from which to state his case against apartheid with his trademark soaring oratory.
Mandela is sentenced to life in prison on Robben Island, and the story appears to be at an end. But his greatest challenges, and his ultimate, glorious triumph, are still to come.
Idris Elba’s performance is nothing short of mesmerising, capturing not just Mandela’s familiar voice and gait, but also his warmth and his steely, unshakeable courage. Opposite him is Naomie Harris, putting in an extraordinary turn as Winnie, Mandela’s passionate, driven wife. Together, theirs is an astonishing story, and it’s all the more remarkable for being true.