February marks 29 years since former state president Nelson Mandela was released from prison. Showmax has added Madiba magic to its line-up, starting with Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (also the title of Madiba’s 1994 autobiography).
Idris Elba on playing Nelson Mandela
While he famously spent 27 years in prison on Robben Island, Nelson Mandela became one of the most iconic freedom fighters in history and his release was global news. But making a movie about a man this famous is no small feat – just ask British actor Idris Elba, who plays Nelson Mandela in the movie that has been broken into four episodes on Showmax: “Obviously with this role, playing someone like Mandela, it’s a life-changing experience. It took me to South Africa and brought me to a world that I’d never experienced before. This is the life experience of South Africa.” The role is played by two other actors: Siza Pini (Nelson aged 7 to 9) and Atandwa Kani (Madiba aged 16 to 23).
Each episode in the miniseries is 43 minutes in length and covers various stages in Madiba’s life, from his youth growing up in the Eastern Cape, to his activism as an ANC politician, to his trial and imprisonment, followed by his release and election as the country’s first democratic president. It’s a lot to take in and examines who Madiba was and the legacy he’s left after his passing in 2013.
Nelson Mandela died on 5 December 2013 while the movie was being screened in London as a Royal Film Performance. The announcement was made after the movie credits rolled up.
Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom was such an immense project that it had been worked on and developed by producer Anant Singh for almost 20 years when it was released in 2013. Singh says, it was important to be thorough: “It was a daunting task [telling the story of the freedom movement in South Africa], but he [Nelson Mandela] chose me and that is a huge responsibility. It’s taken a long time and many people thought it would never happen, but here we are.”
Singh and his writers received first-hand information while scripting the series from people like the late Ahmed Kathrada, who was one of Mandela’s closest friends and fellow activists, on top of spending many years in prison with the statesman. “He [Mr Mandela] told me, ‘I trust you, don’t bother me’,” says Anant with a cheeky grin. “Anything we needed to check, The Nelson Mandela Foundation was very supportive and helpful with their resources and research, as well as people like Mr Kathrada.”
“Madiba said to me, ‘I have weaknesses and strengths. Show me for what I am. We felt it important to show him as a man and do that in a way that is honest.”
6 more movies and documentaries about Nelson Mandela to stream
- Reconciliation: Mandela’s Miracle – this doccie looks at Mandela’s path from activist to president, with interviews from people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu to DA Premiere Helen Zille and even Hollywood actor and director Clint Eastwood.
- 21 Icons – in three minutes, your life will change as people tell you how Nelson Mandela has influenced them and changed the world, hopefully for the better.
- Mrs Mandela – Winnie Mandela’s life is told from her youth as a country girl to an unwavering freedom fighter who stood by her husband’s side while he was imprisoned for 27 years.
- MTV Base Meets Winnie Mandela – MTV Base visit the late Winnie Mandela in her home to discuss her career, leadership and everything in-between.
- Winnie – shown at the Sundance Film Festival, this doccie includes graphic film footage from the apartheid years as Winnie and other interviewees reveal her role in the freedom fight.
- Children Of The Light – Archbishop Desmond Tutu recounts his life, including his interactions with his friend Nelson Mandela and how they helped shape one another.