Goodbye Bafana Review

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Tale of the prison warder in charge of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island


In 1968, ambitious prison warder James Gregory (Joseph Fiennes) gets a job on Robben Island supervising Nelson Mandela (Dennis Haysbert), convicted as a terrorist in white-ruled South Africa. Over years of exposure to the saintly Mandela, Gregory predictably questions his own assumptions about white supremacy. As Mandela is moved into nicer and nicer jails but still not freed, Gregory moves with him — as much a prisoner of apartheid as his charge. Bille August directs this long, solid, liberal film, while the okay lead performances (though Haysbert also looks too roly-poly for a diet of 20 years of gruel) get better once we’re past the fiendish Afrikaaner-bastard melodrama phase of the story.

Interesting story and OK performances but this takes a little time to warm up.