MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM – Film Review

BY RUBY CHINGU

*insert background song, U2’s Ordinary Love because it burns the fire of freedom and justice within you*

mandela_long_walk_to_freedom_ver6Directed by: Justin Chadwick| Starring: Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela, Naomie Harris as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela

RATING: 7/10

I watched the film for the first time about two weeks ago, mainly because of Idris Elba, a British actor whom I am a fan of. I know of Mandela, respect and greatly admire his struggles but I was never really interested to know more about the leader who had just passed a little bit more. If there is one distinct success about this film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, it is that it makes you appreciate the freedom that you have and the man who had lived and sacrificed his life for the attainment of it.

I think most people in the world know about Mandela’s struggles against the apartheid system in South Africa. It is the most famous form of ethnic-based discrimination that places the value of the black people lower than the white people. It disregards the black people’s right to live freely and in dignity without being persecuted. This film does portray the elements quite a lot. But importantly, it provides us a glimpse to the person that Mandela was – the man behind the greatness, the lonely soul behind the legend.

The film is based on Mandela’s autobiography which he wrote himself, therefore the accuracy of the narration is reliable. We don’t have to worry much about the accuracy part of the film. As a whole, the direction and pace of the film is a bit weak for me. The two hours of watching the film left me very dissatisfied – perhaps because some of the scenes seemed like they were cut short and the transition from one moment to another were a bit rushed. Therefore, the storytelling part of the film did not really compel or inspire me in a way.

But that’s pretty much the ONLY BAD THING in the movie. Now let’s go to the good parts, which is a gazillion times more. First, it’s the ideology of Nelson Mandela himself that would keep you focused to the screen. He believed in freedom and peace. He fought for it. Secondly, we get to see how Mandela functioned as a leader and a man with millions of followers. Mandela was South African’s undisputed leader by the time he was released. When a great number of the black people retaliated the vile discrimination by the whites with violence, Mandela asked (or ordered) them to stop. He asked them to do the almost-impossible – that was to forgive them. He was angry yet he pleaded with them to put the nation’s interest and avoid a war. Thirdly, we also get to see the characters he relied upon to materialize his vision for a free South Africa – his wife (now former wife), Winnie, his peers from the African National Congress who were jailed with him for twenty six years, his mother and the last President of the minority white government who began the transition.

The acting in this movie is top-notch. Idris Elba is great, Naomie Harris as Winnie is phenomenal to the point that I forgot for a while that I was seeing a film portrayal. She embodied not only the physics but the emotional state of the suffering yet fiercely strong woman as well. The outstanding performance by the actors make the film more of a characters-driven film. While watching the film, the actors were the ones who sustained the flawed plotline. At times we think the film leaves behind a few loopholes but we don’t mind anyway because the performances are great.

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The high points of the films revolve around the changing personalities of Nelson and his wife Winnie. From a tight-knit couple during the first few years of marriage, they drifted apart due to the sufferings they encountered and the different ways they dealt with them.

ImageMandela was raised a flawed man. He was not perfect. The evolution from an aggressive young leader of the African National Congress to the kind soft yet powerfully charismatic old President is the most interesting thing to see. Mandela’s early life had been nothing but perfect. He had a wife before Winnie and barely spending time with her due to his commitments for ANC and his womanizing. They fell in love as quickly as they fell out of love. What happened? Was Mandela unhappy? Or was it perhaps the first wife failed to embrace his fiery spirit to fight against apartheid? If the first wife had joined in the fight as well – like Winnie – would they have stayed together? I think that’s it. They separated because both knew that the lives they wanted for each other was different. Mandela did not have time for family. He was leading half the nation. It was kind of expected, sadly. He did something great for the country at the cost of losing his first family.

Then, he met with Winnie, who was also a subscriber to the ANC’s fight against apartheid. In the beginning, Winnie was like the female version of Mandela. Their ideologies did not differed much. After Mandela was sent to prison for more than twenty years, Winnie was the leader of his followers. She was the unifying symbol of the Mandela factor. She represented him outside the cell he was confined into and she was the one who reminded people about him. Mandela sort of owed his life to her. However, as Winnie struggled against harsh treatment from the minority government (she was jailed and tortured multiple times herself), we began to see the evolution of Winnie Mandela that would set her apart from her husband.

ImageAs much as the film is about Mandela, it is also about Winnie. She transformed from the slightly optimistic woman to a somehow embittered leader. She grew to be more aggressive and had a difficult time taking Mandela’s advice to maintain peace and avoid any clashes amongst the South Africans. It was sad to see. She was wholly justifiable in her stance, I think, though I don’t agree with her actions. But we must understand that unlike Mandela who was imprisoned for 26 years and had been away from his followers, Mandela had lived among her people. She was of a closer proximity to their sufferings and grievances. Of course her anger was way more intense than that to her husband. However, Mandela had the rational mind – he was also angry but in the greatest dialogue of the film, he uttered to the deeply-divided South Africans – “We cannot win a war BUT we can win an election.”

BRAVO, MANDELA, BRAVO!!

His struggled paid off. After twenty six years in prison, he was released. The years after, apartheid was abolished and he became President. Justice, freedom and equality is possible. However, the price he had to bear was unbelievably high. For the pursuit of freedom, he lost all things dear to his heart – his first wife, time with his children, his first child died whilst he was in jail, Winnie and to be himself. The scene where Nelson had dinner by himself, all alone at the huge fancy wooden table was heartbreaking. So, after years of sacrifice, this was the life you were destined to have. For the happiness of others, he let go of his.

ImageIt’s so sad, man. So sad. I cried. Literally. Many many times.

Thus, as you guys are reading this, surfing the internet and going about your lives, think about the freedom we have and the discrimination we have to face. Mandela has taught me a little bit about not being afraid to hold on to hold tight to our principles. Peace is everything. Death by violence is not worth it. A life can never be compensated. The attainment of freedom is an ideal that is worth dying for.

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Book Review : Raising My Voice by Malalai Joya (2009)

by the gorgeous Palah Chingu

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“I don’t fear death; I fear remaining silent in the face of injustice. I am young and I want to live. But I say to those who would eliminate my voice: I am ready, wherever and whenever you might strike. You can cut down the flower, but nothing can stop the coming of the spring.” ― Malalai Joya, Raising My Voice

I got this book at the fair price near the Chowrasta market, Penang. How I love that place because they sold books in a very reasonable price. However, since I read this book, I have deep admiration towards Malala Joya’s courage and boldness for speaking what is on her mind. She’s even willing to risk her life for championing women rights in Afghanistan. She is what I called the true figure of Afghanistan Heroine. It is truly lucky that she had educated father. Born into the war torn country, having an educated father is a blessing to her. She has not been denied her right to education like majority of Afghanistan girls had. Malalai Joya started being an activist at the young age.  Her family supported her dreams and understands that what Joya did is a proof of how much she loves her country. Even in Taliban Years at Afghanistan, She constantly travels to teach young girls so that they can read and continually have access to education. In this book, Joya does not try to sugarcoat or hide anything on what happened in Afghanistan. She told and exposed everything from the withdrawal of US force from Afghanistan, to the period when Hamid Karzai is appointed as a President and until now, where the majority of government’s minister and members of Parliament are part of warlords and religious extremists.

My Rating: 5/5
My Rating: 5/5

She often travel to overseas to speak about the plight and dilemma of her peoples and her country. She often invited to the talks and events to share her experience and to make her message came across clearly especially to other countries political leader. She talked about how comfort she is at the other country but she still thinking about her country. How many people spent times in the darkness due to no access of electricity and how many people fell sick because of lack of access on clean water. Her true love towards her country is reflected upon that. I know that no even once she mentioned she wanted to move to another country despite death threat made against her is increasing. She managed to escape so many times and would not give up easily.

It is truly a real eye opening story to me. A very young girl who dared to raise her voice in the Afghanistan’s Parliament criticizes majority of MPs who did not give a shit about people. They do not care about improving the rate of literacy, discarding the poverty and let alone in championing women rights and freedom. When Joya spoke boldly, she’s being scorned not by the fellow male MPs, but also by female MPs who Joya believes is just for display so that the world believes that the current government is on the path of instilling Democracy. She was banned for so many times from parliament due to so many complaints have been made against her.

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This is truly amazing book. Amazing because you can feel how honest Malalai Joya pours her feelings into the book. Amazing because how insightful she wrote this book based on the aspect of war, Afghanistan people, Democracy and her not yet achieved dreams and hopes.