Voice of America (Washington, DC)

South Africa: Mandela Biopic Recounts Apartheid Icon's Life

Just weeks after Nelson Mandela's death, a film about his life opens in U.S. theaters. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom follows the apartheid icon's journey from a lawyer and activist, through decades in prison and finally to president of South Africa.

"The story of apartheid in a color-divided Africa, South Africa, is but 25 years old," said Idris Elba, who portrays Mandela in the film. "And so you understand that is important generally to the world to see that we don't make those mistakes again."

During the film's Dec. 5 premiere in London, which was attended by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, news of Mandela's death broke.

The movie's producer says the iconic leader had the chance to see parts of the film before he died.

"We showed the footage to Nelson Mandela," said Harvey Weinstein, "and he looked at it and he goes, 'That's me.'"

Mandela's life with his wife Winnie was interrupted by his long imprisonment, and the film underscores all that was stolen from the South African leader as well as the pain his family suffered for 27 years.

"Winnie's journey is not a comfortable one, is not really a pleasant one," said Naomi Harris, who portrays Winnie Mandela. "There is not a lot of joy there and a lot of laughter."

After his release, the film shows Mandela meeting an angry Winnie, who wants to continue the struggle. But the aged Mandela has forgiven his enemies for the sake of his country and is determined to pull his people from the brink of civil war.

"People love to hate," the character of Mandela says in the fim. "They can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart."

Although the film does not successfully capture Mandela's transformation from an activist rebel to a pacifist statesman, Elba's performance has earned him a Golden Globe nomination.

"Mr. Mandela will live on. He will never die," Elba said. "I think essentially this film will contribute to that."

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