The film has since had a theme song written by U2 added to it, and premiered in South Africa, where it received a warm reception from my fellow countrymen and women, who don’t just accept any ol’ Madiba impersonation. Last week, US president Barack Obama screened it at the White House, and in two weeks’ time the British royal family will attend a screening of the film, which was selected as this year’s Royal Film Performance.
On Thursday night last week, the film premiered in New York, the first city Madiba visited in the US upon his release from prison, before he went on to become president.
I like to think the city has a special relationship with his legacy, after it threw a massive ticker-tape parade for him in June of 1990, as he began his efforts to personally cement US support for the ANC in the run-up to the country’s first democratic elections.
Various guests came out to the premiere, among them Tony Bennett, The Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood, Ashanti, Rosario Dawson, and the Reverend Al Sharpton, who was an observer during the ’94 elections. He told me he hopes a younger generation will see the film and come away from it with a little more insight into Madiba’s life.
Mandela’s daughter Zindzi, who has been attending the high-profile screenings of the film, says she’s seen it four times and each time she sees something more in it that she appreciates: “I love this movie because this depiction stands out. It doesn’t just define my father according to this man who was incarcerated and came out of prison to reconcile a country and unify people behind him. It talks about a boy who was raised on indigenous knowledge systems, who was taught traditional ways that equipped him and gave him the wisdoms that have made him survive the challenges ahead of him.”
As a South African, I’ve been especially interested in the response from others towards the film, especially from those outside of the country who aren’t as close to the story. For now, there have only been a select few who’ve seen the movie ahead of its release date at the end of the month and in December and January.
With its noteworthy screenings at the White House and in the company of the British royal family, I asked director Justin Chadwick where else he wants it to go.
“To the cinemas all over the world where I hope it will stay for a while,” he replied. “After all, it is an independent movie that needs people seeing it to make sure it doesn’t just go into the cinema on a Friday and come straight off on a Monday.”
Idris Elba’s performance should ensure he gets his wish.