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This image released by The Weinstein Company shows Idris Elba, as Nelson Mandela (left), and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela in a scene from ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’. (AP)
S. Africans warm to Mandela film Critics unimpressed

JOHANNESBURG, Dec 1, (Agencies): ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ won rave reviews from South Africans who flocked to its opening night but critics were unimpressed, with one describing the latest biopic about the anti-apartheid leader as overly reverential ANC propaganda. With South Africa’s first black president now 95 and in poor health, cinema-goers were in emotional mood at last week’s first airing of the 150-minute epic, which stars British actors Idris Elba as Mandela and Naomie Harris as his wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. “It was an extremely warm, emotional experience for me,” said 42-year-old Seedat Tahera, praising the authentic feel of the movie, filmed partly in Soweto, the sprawling Johannesburg township at the heart of the struggle against white rule. “I grew up in the streets of Alexandra township and for me every step that Mr Mandela took, it was as if I was taking that step again. It brought me great calmness and peace. I feel very loved and fortunate to be a South African.”

Mandela, who became president in 1994 but stepped down after one term in office, gave independent South African producer Anant Singh the film rights to his ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ autobiography more than 15 years ago. Much of the difficulty in bringing the book to the big screen was condensing a story stretching over six decades, including 27 years in prison, into a two-hour film script. Singh and British director Justin Chadwick chose to focus on Mandela’s fight against apartheid and the toll it took on his family. They also tried to show the good and the bad, including the embrace of violence that led to his life prison sentence. But critics said it failed to do this and had instead become another cog in the myth-making machine that the African National Congress (ANC) and others have created around Mandela.

“By failing to deal in any significant way with Mandela’s politics and refusing to spend any time examining what it was about him that propelled him into such a visible role in the liberation movement, the film does itself an insurmountable disservice,” wrote reviewer Tymon Smith. “The film simply reinforces the hagiographic propaganda of the ANC,” he said in South Africa’s Times newspaper. The Sowetan newspaper praised the powerful acting in the film, but said it came across as a series of sketches. “Fitting such a long and eventful life story into a two-hour movie was always going to be a mammoth task,” the paper said. Mandela’s family and the ANC, the 101-year-old former liberation movement that has run South Africa since the end of apartheid, have applauded the movie. It is not known whether Mandela himself, who is reported to have tubes down his throat to drain fluid on his lungs, has seen it, or is even well enough to see it. Even if he did, the attention foisted on him may well have made him uncomfortable.

In the first chapter of a planned sequel to ‘Long Walk to Freedom’ written in 1998, Mandela described his awkwardness at being put on a pedestal by his countrymen and millions more around the globe. “One issue that deeply worried me in prison was the false image that I unwittingly projected to the outside world; of being regarded as a saint,” he wrote. “I never was one, even on the basis of an earthly definition of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

The producer of a new Nelson Mandela film bought last week for 95,000 dollars a collection of the former South African president’s personal items, including his photograph with boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
The successful bidder at 950,000 rand (70,000 euros), Anant Singh, is the producer of a long-awaited film, “Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom”, on the life of the anti-apartheid hero to be released on Thursday.
The assortment of 79 signed mementos at the rare auction date from 1964 to 2010 and include the historic speech the peace icon delivered from the dock in 1964 during the Rivonia Trial that sent him to prison.
“I think it’s a fair price. I think the seller got a good price, the buyer got a great price,” said Alan Demby, president of the Johannesburg-based auction house Stephan Welz & Co.

“It’s more about what (Mandela) represents than the actual items. It’s not rare, it’s almost priceless. And I think that’s what makes it such a fascinating collection,” Demby said.
The collection also includes Mandela’s picture with ex-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela entering a packed stadium in Soweto to address supporters after his release from jail in 1990
A 1988 concert pass for Mandela’s 70th birthday tribute at London’s Wembley Stadium and a bottle of wine are also among the memorabilia.
The frail 95-year-old had become South Africa’s first black president in 1994, after the fall of the whites-only apartheid regime. Mandela is currently battling ill health under intensive care at his home, after spending almost three months in hospital receiving treatment for a recurring respiratory infection.
The biopic is largely based on Mandela’s autobiography and traces the life of the revered leader from his childhood in the rural Eastern Cape to his election as the country’s first black president in 1994.

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