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article imageMandela movie gets warts-and-all treatment, says actor

By Andrew John     Sep 9, 2013 in Entertainment
The British actor playing Nelson Mandela in a new biopic says the movie doesn’t shy away from the former ANC leader and South Africa president’s less flattering characteristics.
Mandela is shown as a womaniser and as someone who was violent towards his first wife, Evelyn.
Actor Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther) says it was important to show “both sides, the good and the bad”, according to the BBC.
Elba is quoted as saying: “I didn’t want to deface Mr Mandela in any way. But I didn’t want to portray him in a way that wasn’t honest.”
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom had its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival, where Elba spoke of the movie.
The BBC reports: “Based on the former South African president’s autobiography, the film charts his early life as a lawyer, his political activism and the 27 years of imprisonment that preceded his democratic election in 1994. Naomie Harris, also British, plays Mandela’s second wife Winnie in Justin Chadwick’s two-and-a-half-hour drama.”
Elba says we’ve all seen the saintly Mandela, but it was “important for us to take the audience on a journey prior to that and understand who he was.”
Ninety-five-year-old Mandela was released from hospital last week after three months of treatment for a recurring lung infection.
Elba said: “Like everybody I’ve been very concerned for his health but I’ve been keeping optimistic.”
Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl, The First Grader, Bleak House) says Hackney-born Elba was the right person to play the eponymous role.
“There were other obvious choices, but Idris was the brave choice,” he says. “He doesn’t look like Madiba [Mandela’s Xhosa clan name], but we weren’t going for a lookalike, soundalike version.”
Elba’s most recent TV work has been as the maverick London cop John Luther in Luther, which ended its latest season earlier in the summer. His films include Thor and Pacific Rim.
’Little that’s terribly wrong’
The film hasn’t had universal praise, with Screen Daily saying that the ambition of its scope “isn’t matched by the artistry of its vision: This nearly two-and-a-half-hour biopic is largely too tasteful and conventional to offer much insight into the remarkable man it wishes to celebrate.”
However, writer Tim Grierson continues: “To be sure, there’s very little that’s terribly wrong with Chadwick’s film. Mandela wouldn’t be confused with scintillating cinema, but it tells its story in a thoughtful manner, presenting Mandela’s life in a straightforward way without trying to inject any sort of artificial character arc onto the story.”
Then, reverting to a more critical take on the film, he continues: “But that hands-off approach also means that the film doesn’t have much of a point of view about its narrative, serving more as a rote recitation of memorable moments from Mandela’s life rather than as an incisive perspective on the events or their political and social repercussions.”
The BBC points out that Chadwick’s film coincides with the release of The Queen of Hearts, a biographical drama about Diana, Princess of Wales, which, as Digital Journal reported last week, was panned by the critics.
Real-life people also featuring in the Toronto line-up this year are WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Jimi Hendrix and the Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts.
The Toronto International Film Festival continues until September 15.
More about Nelson mandela, Biopic, justin chadwick, Idris Elba, Toronto film festival
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