Mandela – long walk to freedom.
From man to legend.
Berlin between black ice and camera flashes. Despite the unkind temperatures, fans and celebrities have flocked in. As well Horst Köhler, the former Federal President of Germany, has come because this evening, one of the most fascinating stories of the 20th century is going to be told on the silver screen. It is the story of a man who rose from a village boy to a freedom fighter. From revolutionary to president. From man to legend. It is the story of Nelson Mandela. He is reported to have said to producer Anant Singh, who had been his friend for almost twenty years: “Don’t worry, don’t bother me, I trust you.” That was how the most expensive cinema epic in South Africa was made.
His trust paid off. 'Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom' is now showing in cinemas all over the world and touching deep feelings everywhere.
The long walk on the cinema screen.
Producer Anant Singh began his career when apartheid was at its height, and he brought the first South African anti-apartheid films to our cinema screens. “Mandela – Long Walk to Freedom” is the only film to have been personally authorised by Nelson Mandela. Sixteen years of work went into the creation of this epic film, from searching for the material to finally turning it into a film. Altogether, more than 10,000 people were involved in the production. The crew included script writer William Nicholson, who was nominated for an Oscar, and the British director Justin Chadwick (“The Other Boleyn Girl”). In order to ensure as much authenticity as possible, even the roles of extras were cast with “real people”.
'We put the whole dynamics and energy of Mandela's life into this film so that the viewers really are always right in the thick of it.' The result is not only the most expensive South African movie of all times, but also the most successful. In its home country it broke all the box office records in next to no time.
'Films live from their characters.'
The dynamics of the film are derived both from the visual directness of the pictures and the personal approach of the screenplay: 'Films live from their characters. In my eyes Winnie's story is almost just as fascinating and as rich and complex as Mandela's story.
To have them both so intimately linked, tracing them through the movie, to the end when he finds himself obliged to separate publicly from her, is just very powerful,' said scriptwriter William Nicholson. 'One could not construct a more dramatic conflict than that.'
The hero who did not want to be one.
The crew was fully aware at all times of the responsibility that this project involved. Chadwick said that the fight for freedom is not yet over: “He still influences the lives of every single person there. That is why the film had to do justice to all those people.” At the same time, Mandela himself placed great importance on not being branded a hero – that in itself was a balancing act for directors and actors. In addition, there was the burden on the protagonist to embody the freedom fighter between the ages of 23 and 76. The search finally led to Idris Elba, who had shown his talent in the dramatisation of complex characters when he played Russell Bell in “The Wire”.
In his role, Idris Elba delighted not only critics and audiences: co-producer Thompson explained: “I really don’t know quite how he did it, because it was almost as if Mandela’s spirit had taken possession of him.” Producer Anant Singh, who knew Mandela personally, was deeply impressed by Elba’s acting performance. The British actor himself approached his role with the greatest of humility – for him, playing the South African freedom fighter was primarily an honour: “This film is the most important thing I’ve ever done,” he said. And as to the real Mandela, the world had to say farewell to him during the European premiere in London – a few weeks after he had seen his biography on the screen, the hero who did not want to be one passed away at the age of 95. As of the end of January, this spectacular epic film can now be seen in German cinemas.