Opening 12 Apr 2007
1962 was a year where peace seemed impossible for South Africa. The South African government had imprisoned Nelson Mandela (Dennis Haysbert) who would become the first black president of South Africa when Apartheid finally ended. White South African prison warden James Gregory (Joseph Fiennes), who works in the censorship office, tells the story. He learns to respect Mandela for who he is and what he represents: a free South Africa.
There is much pressure on Haysbert to portray the great man and it is a pity that he did not look more like the Mandela that we all know. Diane Kruger gives an outstanding performance as Gregory’s wife. She actually sounds like she is from South Africa and one can sympathise with her difficult situation. The film focuses on these two characters rather than the actual political situation in the townships. This is a seemingly quiet film despite its look at history which in itself was so terribly violent. There were discussions on the validity of the truth in the journals taken from the warden, but the director indicated that it was a terrible time and many people had their own interpretation of events. It would be nice to see more of what happened historically at that time in order to understand Mandela’s difficulties to save his people instead of showing us struggles over chocolate and a fun stick fight between Gregory and Mandela. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)