Last year, the producers of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom used an iPad to show early scenes of the film to the former South African president. While looking at the footage, Mandela asked producer Anant Singh, “Is that me?” I can’t imagine a greater compliment for the team behind this film.
Anant Singh, who is a third generation Indian from South Africa, has a long connection with Mandela, or Madiba as many call him. Anant became friends with Fatima Meer, who was an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa. She wrote Higher Than Hope, a biography about Nelson Mandela.
In an interview with Variety, Anant explains how special Fatima was. “Fatima was the conduit of my introduction to him. Fatima invited me to her home and there sat Madiba! I had no idea.”
Mandela allowed Anant to read his own memoir, Long Walk to Freedom, when it was still in manuscript form, and Anant instantly recognized there was a visual story there that could and should be told through the medium of film. A huge bidding war took off for the film rights to Mandela’s autobiography, but Mandela was set on Anant telling his story. Anant says Mandela told him, “This is a South African story, and I want you to tell it.”
Seventeen years later, the film is complete and it just received a standing ovation at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Glenn Whipp of the Los Angeles Times says, “When the 152-minute movie ended, there was a sustained standing ovation at the cavernous, not-quite-full Roy Thompson Hall through the closing credits, not unusual for a gala screening at Toronto, but also indicative that there might be room enough this Oscar year for multiple films that examine race in very different fashions.”
Much of the praise of the film is for the casting of and performance by Idris Elba. Justin Chadwick, the director of Long Walk to Freedom, said he was not looking to cast a mimic. “We’re not going for a looky-likey, soundy-likey version of Mandela, we’re trying to catch the spirit.” Elba dove into the role with great passion. About playing Mandela, Elba says, “I certainly just plugged into the energy of Mandela and the way people respect him. There was no messing about with this character and this story.”
I am completely fascinated by the work and dedication involved in the creation of this story. I wish it much success, and I cannot wait to see it on the big screen!
The film is scheduled to be released in theaters on November 29th.
Image Credit: IMDB
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