Nelson Mandela film triumphs a

Nelson Mandela film triumphs at Toronto Film Festival

The big-screen adaptation of Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, moved reviewers to tears at its world premiere in Toronto, Canada, this weekend.

Nelson Mandela film triumphs a

Mandela film THE first screening of the eagerly-anticipated film documenting the life of Nelson Mandela was followed by a standing ovation lasting almost ten minutes. Audience members were visibly moved by the epic, described by one reviewer as a “deeply respectful portrait of one of the global political stage’s indisputably great leaders.”

David Rooney, writing for The Hollywood Reporter, also praised the efforts of British star Idris Elba, who plays the lead role for the majority of the film. Noting that it “takes a commanding actor to fill the shoes” of a man like Mandela, he goes on to say that charismatic Elba “proves equal to the task.”

Director Justin Chadwick admits that Elba was a “brave choice” because he bears little resemblance to Madiba. However, while watching the actor in character last year, Nelson Mandela had trouble believing that it wasn’t himself he saw on screen. Anant Singh, who produced Long Walk to Freedom and is a friend of the Mandela family, showed the former president a clip of the film at his home during production and says that after viewing it, he asked: “Is that me?”

The country’s marketing agency, Brand South Africa, released a statement congratulating the film-makers after the positive reception they received at the premiere on Saturday. CEO Miller Matola said: “The production of this film that celebrates the life of our national icon is indeed timely, especially as South Africans will celebrate 20 years of democracy in 2014.”

Despite the universal praise for Idris Elba, critics have mixed opinions about the pace and narrative of the biopic. Screen International says it is “too tasteful and conventional to offer much insight into the remarkable man it wishes to celebrate”.

Others have pointed out that the struggle to condense the extraordinary life of Mandela into a film lasting two-and-a-half hours is obvious. In that time viewers follow his journey from young lawyer to president, through his recruitment by the ANC and the 27 years he spent in prison.

The film also delves into Mandela’s relationships, refusing to shy away from the more controversial aspects of his personal life such as his early womanising. Speaking at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival, lead actor Elba said: “I didn’t want to deface Mr Mandela in any way. But I didn’t want to portray him in a way that wasn’t honest.”

South Africans will get a chance to judge for themselves when Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is released in cinemas nationwide on 28 November, while those in the UK have to wait until 3 January 2014 to catch it here.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
A scene from ‘Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom’ which shows Ahmed Kathrada (Riaad Moosa) and Walter Sisulu (Tony Kgoroge) being arrested at Liliesleaf Farm.