It’s difficult to adequately and accurately describe the cultural and political significance of a man like Nelson Mandela. In South Africa, he’s — he’s everything. He’s Jesus and George Washington and Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. I cannot think of an equivalent in any other country, of any other man or woman who has had as much of an impact on his country, who has done as much and sacrificed as much. Nelson Mandela is a hero, in the absolute literal sense. And the moment that Idris Elba raised his fist and shouted “AMANDLA!”(Zulu for “POWER”), I started to come apart a little.
This is the trailer for Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, starring Elba as Mandela as well as Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela, and directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl ). It is an unbelievably bold endeavor, to tell the entirety of his adult life story, beginning with his days as a violent, passionate radical, his complex and tempestuous marriage to Winnie, his 27 years in prison, and ending with his election as president. It looks promising, and I’ve been waiting for a solid movie role for Elba for quite some time. This has the potential to put him on the map far more than his turns in “The Wire,” “Luther,” and Thor.
But of course, I’m nervous, because like I said — the man is one of my few honest-to-goodness living heroes. So to make an entire film about him evokes a lot of feelings among South Africans. Sure, we’ve seen Morgan Freeman and Dennis Haysbert and Clarke Peters play him, but always either supporting roles, or focusing on a specific part of his life. This is the toughest kind of biopic — taking on his entire life, and condensing that remarkable life into a single film. It will be interesting to see how it goes.
Nelson Mandela turned 95 years old this year, and his health is failing. Even though we all know it’s coming, when he passes, millions will nonetheless be devastated. So hopefully, this film will be able to do him justice.
Here’s the new trailer.