Producer Anant Singh is recognised as South Africa’s preeminent anti-apartheid film producer. Previous productions of Singh include PLACE OF WEEPING, SARAFINA!, RED DUST, and CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY. Heavily funded by the South African ANC government and the Nelson Mandela Foundation, this £22 million authorized biopic, MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM presents a selection of incidents from the history of South Africa and the life of Nelson Mandela that will go a long way toward further marketing the Mandela myth.
Shot for spectacle with impressive crowd scenes, the legend of Nelson Mandela is presented with numerous speeches, backed with swooning orchestration that climbs to emotional peeks whenever Nelson Mandela addresses any crowd. London born actor, Idris Alba, plays Nelson Mandela from his early days as a smooth lawyer, through his recruitment to the African National Congress (ANC), to his arrest, imprisonment, eventual release, and election as president. Naomie Harris plays Winnie, the fiery revolutionary love interest and second wife of Nelson Mandela.
The movie begins with Nelson Mandela as a teenager going through the Xhosa circumcision ritual where witchdoctors prepare youth for initiation rites. The painting of their naked bodies in white chalk, passing through the smoke of burning everything relating to their childhood and washing off in the river, with full frontal male nudity, is disturbingly depicted. Next, the Nelson Mandela character is depicted as a smooth lawyer in a three-piece suit walking past anachronistic security gates and burglar bars, which did not exist in South Africa in the 1940s.
The movie is a mythic and heroic story of man against man. In this case, it is a black man leading all black people against white people who are depicted as uniformly racist, shallow, and stupid. The filmmakers apparently believed that the best way to exalt Nelson Mandela was to depict all whites as narrow-minded, selfish, racist bigots. The first scene of whites in the movie is of them sipping champagne on a balcony, while the black workers bustle around on the streets below. Numerous fictional incidents and comments are inserted in order to reinforce this stereotype.
The timeworn cliché of the reluctant revolutionary is inserted into the story. Thus, the movie turns Nelson Mandela from a happy-go-lucky smooth lawyer confounding a white woman in the witness box, to a frustrated and angry revolutionary fighting for justice, peace, and “equality for all.”
Numerous incidents of mindless police brutality are depicted, giving the impression that, without any provocation, or reason, they would beat up, or shoot, black men, women, and children in cold blood.
Nelson Mandela’s pattern of adulterous relationships and repeated beating of his first wife are briefly touched on in a few fleeting scenes. Then, much attention is given to the romance with Winnie, who became his second wife.
In contrast to the repeated, respectful treatment of animism, Christianity is dismissed in a few striking statements and scenes. Mandela states that God only seems to answer the prayers of the Boers, and Winnie declares that there is no God who will save us, we must save ourselves!
Later, Winnie Mandela gives a revolutionary call to violence from the front of a church, where the cross is obscured. With much anger and expressions of hatred, Winnie Mandela repeatedly calls for using stones, boxes of matches, and petrol to ‘necklace’ the alleged informers and kill the enemy. One brutal burning to death of a supposed informer through the ANC’s signature necklace method is depicted. Actually, more than 1,000 black people were burnt to death by the brutal necklace murder, so publically promoted by Winnie Mandela. Many of these were elected black town councilors and mayors, but that isn’t acknowledged in this movie, which claims that blacks had no rights, no votes and no elected representatives.
Significantly, there is no mention of the Cold War context and not a scene or a reference to communism, the Soviet Union or the Communist Russian and Cuban troops engaged at that time in conventional warfare on the border of Angola and South West Africa. Also, no mention is made of the Cuban training in terrorism received by Nelson Mandela. Nor are any of the victims of his bombing campaign depicted. From the movie, one would get the impression that his “armed struggle” consisted of nothing more than night time bombings of unoccupied municipal offices and a power station. In fact, none of the ANC’s car bombings are depicted, not even the infamous Church Street bombing bloodbath. None of the ANC assassinations, such as of Bartholemew Hlopane, are depicted or mentioned. Nor is the Shell House massacre when Nelson Mandela, as head of the ANC, after his release from prison, ordered his security to open fire on unarmed Zulu protestors belonging to the INKATHA Freedom Party. At no time does one even see a hammer and sickle. The huge Soviet and South African Communist Party flags that Nelson Mandela spoke in front of are nowhere to be seen in this movie! Neither are any of the white Russian communist members of the ANC, such as Joe Slovo and Ronnie Kashril, depicted in any way in this film.
It is disturbing that this movie is due to open widely across the United States on Christmas Day. With songs of praise and hymns glorifying Nelson Mandela being sung by choirs and taught to school children, we seem to be seeing the beginning of a new religion (especially in the wake of Nelson Mandela’s recent passing).
Certainly Nelson Mandela is the pre-eminent icon and idol of the New World Order. The United Nations General Assembly has even declared July 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day! The timing of this heavily state-funded propaganda movie is interesting as the ANC, mired in corruption scandals, is heading into an election year. Many see the timing of this movie’s release as a distraction from the disastrous failures of the ANC, by rewriting history to depict the past in the worst possible light and rally the voters of South Africa behind the party of the revered Nelson Mandela.
The violence of the ANC is mostly blamed on Winnie Mandela with Nelson Mandela apparently disapproving. Even when referring to Mandela’s divorce from Winnie, Mandela’s character blames it on the apartheid government!
There are disturbing and shocking scenes of the black on black violence in the townships with axing, shooting, and hacking of men, women, and children, but no explanations given as to who was doing what to whom. At no time is any hint given that there were actually other black political parties in South Africa, such as the INKATHA Freedom Party, with whom the ANC was locked in deadly turf wars.
Throughout the movie, Nelson Mandela dominates the screen and always has the most intelligent and profound things to say. He always has the last word, even in court and in prison. No one else ever seems to have a reply for his dogmatic statements.
After all the depictions of white racism and evil, the movie concludes with Nelson Mandela commenting, “If I can forgive them, you can forgive them!” He asserts, “Peace is the only way.” The movie ends with a quote from Mandela’s autobiography, LONG WALK TO FREEDOM: “My country is not meant to be a land of hatred. People are taught to hate and they can be taught to love. Love comes more naturally than hate.”
If the movie’s message is forgiveness, then it’s a good message. However, divorced from the context of the brutal war being waged by the ANC to intimidate the people in the townships, and terrorize farmers and civilians, this movie turns communists into heroes, and Christians into villains. It also denies the depravity of man, claiming that love (apart from God) is natural and dismisses God as irrelevant.
The movie wisely stops at Mandela’s Presidential Inauguration in May 1994. That is understandable, because at two and a half hours long, the movie drags and sags at times. It is quite episodic. However, it would be relevant to note that the Nelson Mandela presidency was a disappointment and a failure in many ways. Nelson Mandela reintroduced race classification for Affirmative Action, Black Economic Empowerment, and job reservation. He legalized pornography and abortion. Violent crime exploded, with rape and child abuse increasing 400% during his presidency. The currency imploded and the ANC looted the country of billions of rands [the South African currency] through chronic corruption. Over one million babies have been killed, officially, legally, in South Africa, with taxpayer money, since Nelson Mandela forced through the Termination of Pregnancy Bill on Feb. 1, 1997.
Under Nelson Mandela’s presidency, an average of 25,000 people were murdered each year. Yet, to celebrate his birthdays, Nelson Mandela would regularly open prison doors and set many convicted criminals, including armed robbers, murderers, and rapists, free. Some of these were murdering and raping within 24 hours of being released. Well over 100,000 people were murdered under Mandela’s term as president.
To put this into perspective, in 44 years of apartheid, 18,700 people were killed in politically related violence. This included soldiers, police, terrorists, civilians, necklace murders, rioters – all victims. However, after Mandela became president in 1994, an average of 25,000 people were murdered every year. In fact, more than 67,000 whites have been murdered in South Africa since 1994, 3,000 of them farmers.
In the 1970s, even while facing terrorism, riots, and engaged in a border war with the Cubans in Angola, the SA Rand was stronger than the US Dollar. In Mandela’s first four years as president, the Rand lost 80% of its value and more than 2.8 million man days were lost to strikes. The national debt doubled under Nelson Mandela’s presidency.
Therefore, under Mandela, even with no war, no sanctions, no riots, no conscription, and with massive international aid and investment, the Rand plummeted to R10 to the Dollar. Economic deterioration and skyrocketing crime marred his presidency. The Economist at the time described Nelson Mandela’s presidency as “a failure.”
However, in today’s worldwide entertainment industry, moviegoers aren’t meant to allow facts to get in the way of a good story. So, MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM calls us to forget all these facts and to shelve our pro-life, pro-family, moral convictions and bow before this new idol, sing this politician’s praises, and effectively burn incense before the image of a new Caesar.