By Milton Nkosi
South Africans are flocking to the cinemas to watch a film about their former President, Nelson Mandela. The movie Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, starring British actor Idris Elba, is based on the former political prisoner’s autobiography of the same title and seems to be hitting the right notes.
I went to watch the epic 146-minute film in one of Johannesburg’s busiest economic hubs, Rosebank, and I found very few critics of the film among the general public.
Almost everyone I spoke to expressed their pleasant surprise at how well the film came across. A big thumbs-up for the lead actor, given that he is not South African, let alone not being Xhosa, Mr Mandela’s tribe. Some sang Elba’s praises because they felt that he got the accent right – not exactly like Mr Mandela, but close enough.
Part of the legacy of the apartheid system is that two decades since the introduction of democracy, the minds of South Africans are still very much defined along racial lines. So inevitably I must tell you what the white people thought and what the black majority said.
In 1994, no-one thought we would still be talking about the colour of our skins in 2013 – especially considering the fact that we are just reviewing a film. However, that’s the reality of today’s South Africa.
Take Karabo Nkabinde, a teenage girl who can be best described as a born-free – the label attached to those who were born after the country was liberated from racial oppression and Nelson Mandela was elected president in the country’s first multi-racial election.
Clad in a fashionable small black hat and thick-framed spectacles, she told me that she had loved the film because it reminded her of the sacrifices Mr Mandela had endured.
“He’s actually been through a lot for us South Africans… for the youth and it is our job to make him proud,” she said.