Saturday, July 20, 2013

Reel People: Idris Elba is Nelson Mandela

The film is Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. The film is directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl and BBC's Bleak House), with a screenplay written by two time Oscar nominee William Nicholson (Shadowlands and Gladiator)

Nelson Mandela

When Nelson Mandela (born Rolihlahla Mandela) was born in July 18, 1918 his great-grandfather ruled as the king of the Thembu people who resided in South Africa's Cape Province.

Rolihlahla was the first member of his family to attend school. There he received his English name, Nelson, from his teacher, Miss Mdingane.

Nelson's dad died when he was 9 of tuberculosis, and went under the care of a guardian who sent him to a Wesleyan school. Nelson still lived the life of Thembu royalty and was treated well. He was interested in a variety of activities including boxing and running.

Nelson did go on to attend higher education at University College of Fort Hare, University of South Africa, and the University of Witwatersrand. During this time Nelson Mandela began shaping his own political ideologies as well as nurturing life long friendships.

Having received his degree in law, Nelson's friend Oliver Tambo and him, set up a law firm. Mandela and Tambo provided affordable legal advise and counsel to poor blacks without representation.

Nelson also was very active in the African National Congress, especially with the political victories of National Party which supported apartheid in South Africa.

Influenced by Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela was arrested and charged with treason along with others who participated in a non-violent protest in 1956. Mandela along with the others were acquitted.

In 1961 Mandela became the leader of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC which was formed in cooperation with the South African Communist Party to fight apartheid. Nelson became more interested in armed struggle as a last resort in a fight against South African policies.

After living on the run for 17 months, Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962 after the CIA tipped off the South African government to his whereabouts. Mandela was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment and labor, and was eventually brought to trial with other ANC members in 1963 for their attempts to overthrow the government. By 1964 he and 8 others were sentenced to life in prison.

Mandela remained in prison until 1990, having served 18 of the 27 years at Robben Island Prison off Cape Town. Many believe when Mandela was transferred from Robben Island the intentions were that he was being moved to limit his influence with younger activist who might attend "Mandela University" in the prison.

February 11, 1990 Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison, upon decree of State President F. W. de Clerk. He reversed the decision of banning anti-apartheid organizations and wanted to bring peace within the community of the black majority.

In 1991 in the first meeting of the African National Conference since 1960, Mandela was elected President of the conference (while friend Oliver Tambo was elected the National Chairperson of the ANC).

This was not a time of peace in South Africa, but F. W. de Clerk and Nelson Mandela were devoted to cooperation and negotiation despite violence and assassination of leaders like ANC's Chris Hani.

In 1993 Mandela and de Clerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their negotiations and cooperation.

1994 was the first year for multi-racial elections in South Africa and Nelson Mandela won and was inaugurated as the first black president of South Africa May 10, 1994. Mandela made the National Party's F.W. de Clerk his first deputy.

Mandela had a huge challenge in a disrupted South Africa that was trying to bring together the white and black South Africans. One of those attempts was in getting all South Africans behind the Springboks, the South African national rugby team that was hated by black-South Africans.
Mandela also had a number of challenges, but is particularly marked by his attention to problems AIDS in Africa.

In 1998 was re-married to his 3rd wife on his 80th Birthday. His bride, Gra├ža Machel, was the widow of the former president of Mozambique who had died 12 years earlier in a plane crash.

In 1999, Mandela decided not to run for a second term of office retired from the presidency at the age of 80. His friend Thabo Mbeki succeeded him.

Despite retiring from public office, his involvement in politics and the world continues, despite his age and battles with prostate cancer.


In 2013 Mandela continued to struggle with his health. On his 95th birthday (July 18, 2013) Mandela was in a hospital in Pretoria.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

The film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom tells the story of Mandela's journey from young child to become the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

In addition to starring Idris Elba in the title role Naomie Harris is featured in the role of Winnie Mandela. 

The Weinstein Company have announced that they will be releasing this film in limited release the end of November.

It's only been a few years since Morgan Freeman was nominated for his portrayal of Nelson Mandela. Will Idris Elba receive similar praise and attention, perhaps an Oscar nomination or win for his performance as this Reel (Real) Person?

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