Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)




Director:     .

Starring:     Idris Elba (Nelson Mandela), Naomie Harris (Winnie Madikizela), Tony Kgoroge (Walter Sisulu), Riaad Moosa (Ahmed Kathrada), Zolani Mkiva (Raymond Mhlaba), Simo Mogwaza (Andrew Mlangeni), Fana Mokoena (Govan Mbeki), Thapelo Mokoena (Elias Motsoaledi), Jamie Bartlett (James Gregory), Deon Lotz (Kobie Coetzee), Terry Pheto (Evelyn Mase), Zikhona Sodlaka (Nosekeni), S'Thandiwe Kgoroge (Albertina Sisulu), Tshallo Sputla Chokwe (Oliver Tambo), Sello Maake (Albert Luthuli).

Nelson Mandela's life journey


Spoiler Warning:

The boys of the Xhosa tribe are going through a male rite of passage.  Mandela goes through the rite and says as an older man:  "Now I was a man with duties to my people."  His original name was Rolihlahla, troublemaker, but he didn't want to cause trouble.  He wanted his family to be proud of him. 

Johannesburg, South Africa, 1942.  Mandela is a young lawyer and he is swamped by prospective clients.  A man approaches Mandela asking him if he knows anything about the African National Congress?  Mandela isn't interested in politics at this time.  At night he dances with women in the night clubs. 

The white police arrest a drunk black man who has no pass on him.  At the police station they really kick him around when he's down on the floor.  The man dies and the cause of death is reported to be congenital syphilis.  Mandela says that the man was beaten to death in Jeppe Station.  He gets nowhere with the racist white judge.  This makes Mandela extremely angry.  At dinner he asks who did Jackson ever hurt?  Nobody gives a damn about the black man.   His friends tell Nelson that one person can't change the system by himself or herself, but by working together they can change the situation. 

His friend Walter asks Mandela to join a boycott of the buses. 

Mandela has a new wife.  She tells him to not work himself so hard and long.  He asks Evelyn to go to bed.

The bus boycott starts.  The protestors say that they can't pay a penny more for bus transport.  Walter shouts out to the people not to pay.  "Let their buses run empty."  Mandela and Evelyn watch the people responding to the challenge to walk to Johannesburg.  Evelyn says she's afraid that something bad is going to happen and she wants to go back home.  Nelson insists that he must go with them.  After all, they are not breaking any laws. 

Orlando Township, Soweto, 1948.  The news is:  "The Nationalist Party of Prime Minister Daniel F. Malan has been returned to power in the recent election . . " and that the government intends to geographically separate the blacks from the whites.  Total enforced segregation."  ". . . the new Cabinet has pledged to a policy of uncompromising white supremacy." 

Nelson and Evelyn move with their child Thembi to their new home in Orlando.  Mandela asks asks the people why should they obey the government laws when they do not have the right to vote? 

Nelson has an affair with a black woman.  Evelyn knows about this and gives Nelson hell for it.  He tells Evelyn that they can' do this.  Sorry.  He leaves the house. 

The protestors are upset that the whites are going to force the blacks out of Sophiatown, in order to build luxury houses. Mandela says they will not put up with this.  He leads his people through several ranks of police to get to the Europeans only trains.  For this Mandela is arrested and thrown in jail. 

When Mandela gets out, he goes to his home, but the whole family in gone along with their belongings.  He walks into one of the bedrooms and finds only Thembi.  He tells his son that he knows he's been away from the family a lot, but he assures Thembi that he's doing this for all the people of South Africa. 

Nelson goes home to his village to see his mother.  Mom is upset with her son.  She says they were proud of Nelson, but now he has forgotten everything about his own family.   She asks why the whites want to arrest him? And she asks who will look out for his family when he goes to jail? 

Nelson sees a pretty woman standing in line for a bus.  He parks his car and goes over to ask her if she wants a lift?  The woman says okay.  Nelson knows the woman to be Winnie Madikizela, because he has already made inquiries about her.  And Winnie knows the her suitor is Nelson Mandela.  Winnie works at Baragwanath Hospital as the first black social worker they've ever had.  He adds that Winnie is the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. 

Nelson drops Winnie off at her job and says he will return at 6 p.m. when she gets off work.  After work they go for a ride in the countryside.  They kiss. 

They decide to marry.  They have a marriage in one of the townships.  Bride and groom wear traditional costumes. 

Sharpeville.  A reporter says: At Sharpeville, an industrial township, thousands gather outside a police station in protest against new laws requiring every African to carry a pass at all times.  Protestors start burning their passes.  The police are scared at what might happen, so they start shooting the protestors down. The people run for their lives and many are shot in the back.  A reporter reports:  "Between 50 and 100 were killed and hundreds injured."  Another reporter says the police killed 69 Africans.  Men, women and children were shot down.  This event stuns the world. 

Mandela burns his pass and others follow suit.  The police come after the black leadership and Mandela is forced to go underground.  He tells Winnie that the movement has always been non-violent, but not anymore.  He packs his stuff and gets in to get away from the police. 

ANC Training Camp, North Africa.  ANC trainees take target practice with their weapons.  Mandela speaks to a crowd in a theater and says the time has come to either submit or fight.  The people in the theater shout that they will fight, fight, fight. 

The police ransack Winnie's home.  The leader of the raid says they will find Mandela and hang him. 

Liliesleaf Farm --  ANC Safehouse.  The leaders are taught how to make bombs.  A power plant is exploded.  The papers say that Mandela leads ANC down path of violence. 

Mandela wants to speak to a foreign reporter to set the record straight.  He says that the ANC was forced to turn to violence because of the activities of the white government.  He gets his foreign correspondent. 

Winnie and the girls go to Liliesleaf Farm to see Nelson.  Winnie tells her husband to fight them for she hates them so much. 

The ANC blows up a big office.  The detonator went off too soon and a colleague named Petrus was killed.

The police attack Liliesleaf Farm.  On the road the police catch Mandela.  The news travels fast and Winnie is informed of what has happened. 

Palace of Justice, Pretoria, 1963.    Winnie enters the courthouse for the trial of her husband and his colleagues. 

Nelson tells the court:  "I have cherished the ideal of a free, democratic society where all persons live together in harmony with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and achieve, but, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

The judge doesn't want to make the ANC leadership a bunch of martyrs.  So he does not impose the supreme penalty of death, but sentences them all to life imprisonment. 

Robben Island, 13th June 1964.  The prisoners are put in their small cells "for the rest of their lives". 

The police come on another regular check of Winnie's home.  She screams at the police to get out of her house.  They have to physically restrain her. 

Mandela tells the group that they are going to start making demands and their first demand will be long trousers for everyone.  He says they will start small and work up from there. 

A guard gives Mandela a snipped out newspaper article on the subject of Winnie's arrest.   Later he gets one letter from Winnie with only one letter allowed every six months.  Most of the letter has been cut out by the censors.  The guards harass the prisoners and Mandela objects to this.  He says:  "Now, are you part of a justice system or gangsters in uniform?"  He also says that he wants long trousers. 

Winnie comes for another visit.  She too is being harassed by the police. 

Back home Winnie is arrested once again.  She pisses and gets some urine on her interrogator.  He slaps her so hard that she falls off the chair. 

The prisoners finally get their long trousers.  Mandela is given a telegram that his son Thembi passed away, the instant result of a motor accident.  Mandela sobs. 

14th September 1970. After 16 months in solitary confinement, Winnie is let out of prison.  Back home she receive a big reception.  She is happy to see her children and she remains defiant. 

Soweto, 16th June 1976.  The students protest having to learn Afrikaans, the Dutch language of the first European settlers in South Africa. The police respond with beatings and killings. 

Mandela's daughter Zindzi turns 16 and can finally see her father.  She pays him a visit.  He tells her that she is a beautiful young woman now.  She tells him that she has always loved him even though she didn't know him.  Zindsi also says that she is working for the campaign to free Mandela. 

Mandela and the other activists are taken off Robben Island. 

Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town, 31st March 1982.  They now all reside together with cots to sleep on. 

Winnie calls for vengeance on the internal informers.  The men begin the process of "necklacing", that is, they catch an informer and put a tire around his body, they pour petrol over the informer and light the spy on fire.  There are fights in the streets with the police.  The people throw Molotov cocktails at the police. 

President Botha speaks on the radio:  "I am prepared to release Mr. Mandela if he would say that he rejects violence as a means to reach and to achieve political ends."  Mandela comments that this is the way it begins.  Now he can visit alone with his wife.  He tells his friend, the guard Mr. Gregory, that he has not touched his wife in 21 years.  But now he can touch his wife.  They embrace.  He hands a letter to Winnie. 

Orlando Stadium, 10th February 1985.  Zindzi Mandela talks before a large crowd.  She reads Nelson Mandela's response to President Botha.  "I am not a violent man.  It was only when all other forms of resistance were no longer open to us that we turned to armed struggle.  Let President Botha renounce violence.  Let him dismantle apartheid.  I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free.  Your freedom and mine cannot be separated.  I will return."   Winnie feels very proud of her daughter. 

Mandela is taken to a house.  Kobie Coetsee, the Minister of Justice, shows him around the place.  He tells Mandela that this meeting is not taking place.  He introduces Mandela to the other four white men.   The five men have been charged by the president to find some way out of their current difficulties.  The white men offer the following idea to Mandela:  "You end the violence, and we'll give you a share in power."  The whites are scared of what the blacks might do to them if they take over South Africa.  Mandela responds:  "I have seen what fear has done to your people.  You've always been afraid of us, and it has made you an unjust and brutal people."  He also tells the white men that when the blacks come to power there will be no revenge. 

An unprecedented wave of violence is released in South Africa.  Around 300 people have died during this wave.  Only 1 white person has been killed. 

Nelson has impressed the five white men and now some real progress might be achieved.  Mandela gets to stay in a house now.  And his family can visit him at any time. 

At times, the house is filled with people.  At the same time, Mandela has a problem with Winnie.  She has surrounded herself with a gang of boys and a coach of what is called the Mandela United Football Club.  The Club has engaged in some unnecessary violence and Nelson is worried about that. 

The government agrees to lift the ban on the ANC and repeal the race laws. 

Mandela now meets with President de Klerk.  De Klerk tells Mandela that he will release Mandela unconditionally.  The president wants to have a release ceremony, but Mandela says no to that.  He just wants the president to open the gate and let him go. 

11th February 1990.  Mandela is released.  He is given a hero's welcome.  He goes back to Orlando Township. 

Violence continues in South Africa. 

Codesa, 15th May 1992.  De Klerk says that they must find a way to share power and to protect the rights of the minority.  He is booed by many of the black leaders in the room.  Mandela says that de Klerk is right.  They must share power at least until the fear passes. 

Winnie upsets her husband by still talking about fighting the whites.  He tells her that when she speaks in public she must represent the policies of the ANC.  "We are negotiating.  We are not fighting a war."  He insists that she must show loyalty.  He now tells her that it would be better if he lived in his own home. 

Winnie has been having an affair with the "coach" of the football club.  Nelson says he doesn't need to see the photos.  He has come to terms with the situation.  He now goes public with the news that he and his wife have separated.  He says:  "I part from my wife with no recriminations.  I embrace her with all the love and affection I have nursed for her inside and outside of prison from the moment I first met her."

The violence continues.  Police opened fire on gun-carrying demonstrators.  There is fear that the blacks themselves are breaking into a civil war.  There are massacres of black people by other blacks.  Mandela visits one such massacre site.  It's not a pretty sight to see. 

The president blames the attacks by the Inkatha Freedom Party supporters for leaving 13 people dead at an ANC rally near Johannesburg.  Mandela goes on live to calm the people down.  He tells the people that as long as he is their leader, he will show them leadership.  He will tell them when they are wrong, and right now, they are wrong.  Peace is the only alternative.  They cannot win a war, but they can win an election.  He urges his people to stay home and be peaceful.  And when it comes time to vote . .  Vote!

27th April 1994.  It's election day.  It's time for celebration in South Africa.  It's victory for the ANC. 

Mandela becomes the first black President of South Africa.   

He reminisces:  "I have walked a long walk to freedom.  It has been a lonely road and it is not over yet.  I know that my country was not made to be a land of hatred.  No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin.  People learn to hate.  They can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart."


A very good biographic account of the life of Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa.  Highly recommended.  Idris Elba (as Nelson Mandela) was very good. 


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


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