It’s Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday. While the ailing anti-Apartheid hero remains hospitalized in South Africa, the subject of his legacy — and how exactly to portray it on film — has been up for discussion. Tambay A. Obenson points out over at Shadow and Act that Mandela’s story is most often told alongside that of a white character, which puts Mandela’s own life in the background:
Great black actors like Sidney Poitier, Dennis Haysbert, Morgan Freeman, David Harewood and most recently Terrence Howard have all played him, whether in projects that were specifically centered around him, or in which his wife, Winnie Mandela, was the focus.
However, in looking over all those films - even those in which his story was the highlight, the narrative always included his relation to some specific white man - in Mandela and de Clerk (Poitier & Michael Caine); Goodbye Bafana (Haysbert and Ralph Fiennes as a prison guard responsible for Mandela, and the relationship they had); andInvictus (Freeman and Matt Damon as captain of the South African Springboks rugby team).
So really, I can’t say that any of them has focused solely on Mandela’s life, absent of any white co-pilot; meaning, there hasn’t been what I’d call the definitive Nelson Mandela film or TV series (and I’m talking strictly about scripted narratives here, not including documentaries), which, if you think about it, is a shame, given the global awareness of this icon of a human being.
Long Walk to Freedom, a new film due out this November starring Idris Elba and directed by Justin Chadwick, may change things. Check out the teaser above.