Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom seems to be a warts and all depiction of Nelson Mandela’s life and work with the ANC. Till I saw the film, I pictured Nelson Mandela as akin to Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr., both advocates of nonviolence. I guess this wrong impression is due to my believing rock stars and Amnesty International way too much. Wait a minute. I remember studying South Africa in high school and while the discussions seemed to go in circles and De Klerk was mentioned, but I don’t recall discussing Mandela, who must have been in prison then.
The film does show how Mandela advocated violence and how much violence against the government and citizens, both white and black occurred. Winnie Nelson was also shown as advocating violence, even urging her followers to kill spies. The film shows mobs chasing and beating a neighbor to death. who reported ANC plans to the police.
Idris Elba offers a solid performance as Mandela. I liked Naomie Harris as Winnie, but wanted the film to provide more depth to her character, to give her more context. She’s only seen in terms of her husband and her own leadership. No defining scenes with friends, lovers or family members are featured so she’s a character without much context. We see her react and give speeches, but we don’t see enough of how she is as a person prior to Nelson’s arrest. Since she’s key to the film, I wish they’d shown more of her. The film suggests that her infidelity was one reason for their divorce, but we get no sense of the men she was involved with.
(I also learned from the film that Mandela was repeatedly unfaithful to his first wife.)
While I in no way believe in racial segregation or injustice as present in South Africa, I do think that nonviolence could have worked. It takes time, but Mandela’s approach also took over 20 years.
I learned quite a bit about Mandela and South Africa from this movie, but it also left me with an incomplete picture.