One day after Nelson Mandela was buried in his childhood village of Qunu, I sat in a packed theater in Atlanta?watching actor Idris Elba bring the beloved South African president back to life.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom illuminates the Madiba who inspired millions ? heroic, fearless and strong, however it also exposes parts of his character unworthy of praise; he was a womanizer. ?But the movie serves to remind us, despite his iconic status, Mandela was an imperfect, flawed human being, who had the courage to stand up for justice and change the world.
One scene in the film that moved me the most was Mandela?s traditional Xhosa rites of passage ceremony. ?As he ran into the river, washing the white ochre from his body, somehow, you just knew the ritual meant more than leaving his boyhood behind. ?Decades later, as he stood in a shower on Robben Island, washing the dust from the lime quarry off his skin, you got a glimpse at how the ceremony that made him a man also gave him the strength to endure any hardship, including 27 years in prison.
Mandela was sentenced to life for his fight against apartheid, but he was willing to pay the ultimate price. ?In one of the most memorable moments, Elba brilliantly delivered Madiba?s famous speech during ?the trial that changed South Africa.? ?He boldly told the judge, ?During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.?
Long Walk brings to life the headlines about Mandela?s life ? his conviction, his release from prison and his historic election to the presidency ? but it also uncovers some of the more intimate moments, specifically the relationship with his wife, Winnie, played by Naomie Harris. ?The love between the two was palpable, but so was the tension, as Winnie became an influential freedom fighter who was not as opposed to violence as her husband. ?She challenged him on his position, but still stood by his side.