Mandela Review

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Oscar nominated Mandela Documentary


This Oscar nominated documentary, co-produced by former award-grabber Jonathan Demme, is an outstanding portrait of the man who, almost single-handedly, brought about the end of apartheid by means of democratic elections rather than the much-feared bloodbath.

Drawing on 200 hours of original footage and 100 hours of archive material, the film was made with Mandela's complete co-operation on the proviso it enabled people to see him as a human being, rather than a Messiah or demi-god. He shouldn't be too disappointed that it succeeds in showing him as all three.

Through a series of exclusive interviews, Mandela himself acts as our guide from his birth into Transkei royalty to the 1994 presidential election. He's a born storyteller and a natural before the camera, even doing an impression of the pompous headmaster who claimed to be descended from the Duke of Wellington.

Other ANC activists (including Walter Sisulu and Winnie Mandela) contribute anecdotes, but only the quiet dignity of the great man himself has you hanging on to every word (which is just as well as some of the archive stills and clips are rather uninspiring).

Granted unlimited access to Mandela in the seven months prior to the 1994 election, Menell and Gibson shot some atmospheric newsreel footage of the year's momentous events. But it's the smaller, more poignant moments that make the film so memorable, notably Mandela's visit to his ancestral burial grounds and his return to his cell and the lime pit at Robben Island, the notorious maximum security prison where he spent 27 years.

Important, purposeful and is a fitting and lasting tribute to one of this century's most caring, charismatic and courageous men.