Movies want heroes even more than movements do. They want a central character with whom the audience can identify, someone whose pain and whose triumph it can experience its own. Long Walk to Freedom has that character, as well as the performances from the cast, the cinematography, and music that it needs to sweep the audience into its world and into its emotions. Purely as a film, it works. Watching it is a moving experience. I’ll admit to choking up once or twice.
But it’s bad history.
Most importantly, Nelson Mandela didn’t free South Africa — not the man, not the icon. Both played vital roles, but they didn’t do it by themselves. They part of a movement that included the ANC, other liberation organizations, labor unions, civic and religious groups, and insurgent ideologies (such as Black Consciousness) that were larger and more crucial than any individual or symbol. Long Walk to Freedom’s unwillingness to tell Mandela’s story in context — that is, to tell the story of the man — means that it can’t make sense of anti-apartheid struggle, one of the most dramatic movements of the twentieth century.
There’s another way in which the movie fails Mandela. It de-fangs him. This Mandela has been made safe for middle-class, western consumption. His early commitment to strict African nationalism is nowhere to be see or heard. Instead the audience is offered ethnicity as a kind of fashion accessory. Mandela’s long-standing economic radicalism is also missing-in-action. Although he understood that South African capitalism was built on a foundation of white supremacy, western viewers will get no sense that the political and economic structures that they take for granted had much to do with the suffering of black South Africans. Instead, Long Walk to Freedom emphasizes Mandela’s allegiance to liberal democratic values and reconciliation. That’s not wrong, but it’s only part of the story.
”—An extract from John Edwin Mason’s historical review of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. (via dynamicafrica)
Sunday: each color.
Try eating the rainbow. Preferably fruits and veggies to be healthy. Yesterday I had an apple. Today was an orange. Tomorrow will be corn. I’m saving my bananas. This is a fun challenge. Try it!