On 2 November 2013, the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Houghton, Johannesburg, hosted the official South African press conference for the much-anticipated epic film rendition of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.
The making of the movie, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, has been a long and intense journey, one that the Nelson Mandela Foundation has travelled with Anant Singh, the film’s producer, and his team most of the way.
Mandated by Mr Mandela himself, the Foundation’s researchers and archivists were privileged to make their expertise available to the project, and now we look forward to working with Anant and team to take its message to South Africans and the world. It gives the Foundation’s work, particularly with youth, a unique and special direction.
The event saw members of the movie production crew and cast, trustees of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, and members of the Mandela family interact in a special open session about the movie, Madiba’s life story and Mandela the man.
On behalf of the Board of Trustees of the Foundation, Tokyo Sexwale welcomed guests to event, saying that Singh’s Long Walk to Freedom truly captures the history of South Africa’s people and the nation’s journey to democracy.
“The Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom film is a journey that reflects our titanic struggle towards democracy,” he said.
“The film is supported by the Foundation as it represents the life and times of Mr Mandela, our Founder. It is more than a movie, though – it is a touching tribute to one man’s mission that we hope captures his story as no other South African could have,” he added.
Singh then spoke about his first letters to Madiba, written some 25 years ago, in which he had asked him about the possibility of portraying his life story in film. “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom represents a journey of over 25 years, one that is filled with enthusiasm and history,” he said.
Q and A with crew and cast of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Producer: Anant Singh
Director: Justin Chadwick
– Zindzi Mandela representing the Mandela family
– Ahmed Kathrada’s character is played by Riaad Moosa
– Nelson Mandela as a young man is played by Atandwa Kani
– Walter Sisulu is played by Tony Kgoroge
– Evelyn Mase, Mandela’s first wife, is played by Terry Pheto
– Winnie Mandela is played by Naomie Harris
– Mandela’s mother is played by Zikhona Sodlaka
– Zindzi Mandela on watching the film
“When I watched the movie it was a very emotional time for me. I found it quite therapeutic and it made me confront many emotions that I’d buried and that I had refused to acknowledge. The movie was so powerful that at times I wished I watched it alone.
“His (Anant Singh’s) ability to have summarised so many experiences into one movie was simply incredible. The movie is extremely well executed and very sincere. Madiba is often described as the person who emerged from prison, but the movie equally represents the man who was shaped by indigenous value systems while growing up in Qunu – that part of his legacy and persona comes though very strong in the movie.”
Naomie Harris on playing Winnie Mandela and filming in South Africa
“As an actress you try not to judge yourself; the aim is to get as much understanding of your character and portray that accurately. I did as much research as I possibly could – watching interviews and private footage of Winnie Mandela and I hope I did justice to her character; I hope people enjoy it!
“South Africa is a gorgeous country filled with the warmth of its people that is genuine and welcoming.”
Justin Chadwick on filming in South Africa
“I’m from Manchester, not from South Africa, so at first I was resistant to the idea of making a South African movie in South Africa for South Africans. In the end I came here and spent time with people, soaking up their stories, building on the spirit of the people who make up the story.
“It became my responsibility as a director to work with South Africans and really bring their story to life. In terms of casting, over 900 South Africans appear in the film, and each of them were prepared to be real and true. The energy of the people while filming was incredible.”
Anant Singh on releasing the film in South Africa first and challenges
“The film will be released first in South Africa on 28 November. We believe the local audience deserves that.
“Keeping the authenticity of the film true was a challenge, as was keeping the film within budget, but we did it! Thank you to all our investors and supporters.”
Atandwa Kani on playing the young Mandela
“It is a Herculean task to play a young Mandela – something near impossible since there is not much information about Mandela’s early days.
“I did a lot of research and spent time looking at who Mandela is now and what qualities he must have been born with, and in so doing developed a character that authentically represents the young Mandela.”
Riaad Moosa on playing Ahmed Kathrada
“I had the honour of meeting with Mr Kathrada, who was then the youngest of the political prisoners to be incarcerated at Robben Island after the Treason Trial. I spent time with him, I read about him, I watched all the footage there is of him, and I tried to understand his true humility and his true sacrifice. Playing this role was a life-changing experience.”
Terry Pheto on playing Evelyn Mase
“It is an honour to play any role in this film. There is something special about each and every woman in Madiba’s life and although there isn’t a lot of information documented about Evelyn, I was presented with some research material and I hope I did justice to who she is, the woman.”
Zikhona Sodlaka on speaking Xhosa in the film
“My name is Zikhona, I’m Xhosa. In the movie I speak a little Xhosa with Idris Elba, who plays Mandela. When we first rehearsed the conversation, I didn’t care that his Xhosa was terrible, it sounded beautiful to me! After a lot of practise, both Idris and Naomi managed to grasp the South African accent, which for South Africans is a big thing.”
Tony Kgoroge on Idris Elba
“I spent a lot of time shooting with Idris – most of my scenes were shot with him. In this time, I got to know a little about the actor – I took him to places in Cape Town and I saw what a hunger he had for really getting to grips with his character in the movie.”
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom premiered in South Africa on 3 November 2013. It will play on the big screen from 28 November 2013.
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