Movies on the ‘Icon of Humanity’


Nelson Mandela, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former South African president will be immortalized courage, unrelenting dedication and tenacity. After spending 27 years in a prison, anyone, with power, would have been tempted to lock up their previous oppressors. But, this great moral leader invited the warden of Robben Island prison to his inauguration as president of South Africa. Mandela was not a saint. Of course, there were times when he was out rightly indecisive or made wrong strategic decisions, but he never lost his legitimacy to lead, since his strong character came through for him. His story has been told thousands of times and it deserves to be told millions of times in the future.

Thanks to the cinematic medium, Mandela’s ideals and legacy have been immortalized to inspire countless lives in the future. The movies listed below finely dramatize the life of anti-apartheid revolutionary. These sweeping biopics will definitely serve as a eulogy.


Mandela (1987)


This TV movie chronicles Mandela’s transformation from a brilliant young lawyer to a zealous anti-apartheid political activist (late 40s to his move towards Che Guevara-inspired militancy). Danny Glover of “Lethal Weapon” fame played Mandela. This movie released in the 26th year of Mandela’s prison sentence. Before this TV movie his story has been up by a 1981 UK TV miniseries.


Mandela & De Klerk (1997)


This was another historical made-for-TV docudrama, in which Sidney Poitier plays Mandela and Michael Caine plays the role of De Klerk – the South African president, who brought up the reforms to abolish apartheid. De Klerk released Mandela from prison and they both attained Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 for creating a democracy and also a non-racial one. The events portrayed here are structured for the viewers to easily follow, however the events and characters involved were much more complex. Apart from the finest performances, the use of actual footages in this film ably mixes up the fact and fiction.


Goodbye Bafana (2007)


Billie August’s tale starts in the year 1968, where Gregory (Joseph Fiennes) begins work at Robben Island – the place where Mandela (Dennis Haybert) was incarcerated. This well-meaning story retells the friendship between a political prisoner and jail warden. Gregory, at first is portrayed as an enthusiastic supporter of the apartheid regime, but as time goes, he admires Mandel and his cause. Haybert’s performance is highly charismatic and stoic.


Endgame (2009)


This central attention in this film is not Mandela. It rather accounts the negotiations that brought an end to Apartheid in South Africa. “Endgame” demands your knowledge of South African apartheid. Mandela’s tenacity brought an end to the oppression, but there were also many main players behind the screen, who coaxed talks with the implacable government, such as Mbeki, Tambo, Mandela and Esterhuyse. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s earnestly plays the role of Mbeki and Clark Peters gracefully captures Mandela as the man who is two steps ahead of others. Not so accurate, but an uplifting historical add-on.


Invictus (2009)


Clint Eastwood’s noble and compassionate film shows us how Mandela, as the first president of post-apartheid South Africa, culled the racial tensions by pulling together the nation to support its Rugby team, ‘Springboks.’ Through Matt Damon’s Pienaar, we see how Mandela inspired a group of disgruntled men to defeat the formidable New Zealand team in the final of Rugby World Cup. Morgan Freeman provides an undeniably stirring portrayal of Nelson. Yeah, this movie is conventional and predictable, but it’s a must watch to know how our great leader reminded as an uplifting symbol of societal harmony.


Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)


Justin Chadwick’s inspiring biodrama (the project was on for 10 years) is based on the autobiographical account written by Mandela himself. It reiterates the legacy of a triumphant freedom fighter, who based his leadership on love and forgiveness. The towering British actor Idris Elba is too big to play Mandela but is said to have portrayed Nelson as all-too-human with subtlety and grace. On Dec.5th, the movie’s premiere was attended by a London crowd, including Prince William and Duchess Catherine. When producer Anant Singh and Elba announced the demise of Madiba at the end of movie, the audience departed with tearful eyes. So, this heartfelt biopic has turned out to be a tender eulogy for ‘One of Earth’s Great Son.’


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