As far back as I can remember, Nelson Mandela has always been a figure that drew great intrigue and reverence from me. So you can imagine my excitement as a cinephile when I had tickets to the world premiere of “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” securely in my palm. Everything from his legendary history and illustrious career, to his lengthy jail stint and personal relationships captivated my attention…even his unique voice and mannerisms. All this and so much more make the hallowed Nelson Mandela one of the most interesting, controversial, and significant soles living today. Now, most respect and recognize him for his role in abolishing apartheid in South Africa, and with good reason. This achievement alone is one of the most important milestones of our lifetime. While I can honestly say that it was this very event that originally lured me to Mandela, his courage, love, and insight is what kept me glued long after.
Surprisingly, for someone whose life that’s been as watched, recorded, and collated as Mandela’s has. There are many different opinions and takes in articles, books, videos, etc…on the events and circumstances of his personal life and surrounding his political existence. For the majority, the outlook is positive and reassuring, but by no means am I claiming that my view is the only correct vantage point, nor am I discrediting the conclusions of others. One should always research and evaluate the material available for the topic at hand and form their own assessments. That being said, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” is based on a autobiography, so I think it is safe to say that this account of Mandela’s life is fairly accurate. Especially when considering that this retelling isn’t always portraying the man himself in the britest light. He is a man and he has flaws, this is made abundantly clear in the film, which is probably why the film is so grounded and gripping.
Chronicling Mandela’s life, beginning as a child growing up in a rural village, through his adolescent years and receiving his education, all the way up to his revolution, imprisonment, and political aspirations. “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” is a taut, well-paced biopic that clocks in at a daunting two hours and thirty-two minutes. Yet, in all honesty, it is a retelling of one of the most epic, influential, and imperative lives to have graced the Earth. So a lengthy runtime is almost a necessity in order to do it justice, not to mention right. Directed by Justin Chadwick, Mandela’s walk to freedom might have been long and arduous, but this cinematic adaptation of his autobiography appears to be on a short path to the Oscars. With a pair of unprecedented performances from Idris Elba and Naomi Harris, a compelling, historically salient story, and visuals that always astound and provoke a reaction. This biopic should garner several nominations come award season.
In the first few moments, the vast landscape encompasses the screen’s outlining and the theatre surrounding you begins to fall away until the striking, resplendent scenery completely immerses you. This engulfment is constant throughout the film and forces you to fully invest. That being said, what you’re visually absorbing isn’t always easy to look at. There is some unsettling imagery and severe violence. At a few points during the film, the viewer sitting in the seat directly beside me found the visuals so upsetting that she got teary-eyed and had to turn away. For the most part however, I think that any strong-willed viewer or veteran cinephile can handle the content. For example, I found the violence and imagery fairly tame, but I’ve seen quite possibly the most horrid films known to man. Nonetheless, watching a relationship fall apart, unnecessary slaughter, and fellow people in distress is never easy to watch. Especially when it’s so well done.
The soundtrack is another of the film’s high-points. The original score is composed by Alex Heffes, who’s resume includes work used on several Oscar-winning films. So, if his track record and reputation hold up, it looks as if another one of the films he has touched will be heading to awards season. However, while there is so much to like, respect, and enjoy about this film, it doesn’t look like it will be the universally acknowledged biopic masterpiece that some had hoped for. Judging by the critical reception of the film thus far, it appears that “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” will divide audiences. There is grounds for negativity regarding the film, just not in my opinion. Although not perfect, there certainly is far more upside to the film than any fault one can find or imply exists. It might err one the side of safety and respect occasionally, but nothing severe enough to hamper the film.
Some may find inconsistencies and faults in the film’s skeletal structural, length, even it’s historical accuracy. But one thing everyone will agree on is that the flaws, if any, in “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” are trumped by the performances belted out by the magnificent Idris Elba and the lovely Naomi Harris. The two are truly nothing short of perfection in there portrayals of Winnie Mandela and Nelson Mandela respectively. Harris, who’s best known for her supporting role in “Skyfall” and as the leading lady in “28 Days Later” seems to have finally broken through to elite status. I’d be very surprised if she doesn’t earn an Oscar nomination come award season. As for Elba, what can one say about his transformation other than that he became the man himself. The voice, accent, physical appearance, everything down to the tiniest detail. Not to mention the incredible emotional stamina and dramatic diversity. If his portrayal of Nelson Mandela isn’t Oscar-worthy, I don’t know what is.
Performed with admirable reverence and investment of the highest caliber. “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” is an enthralling biopic that will surely garner consideration award season. Although it might be a little too safe and overly long for some.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom: 8 out of 10.
With a little over a month until the Toronto International Film Festival officially kicks off its 38th edition. The first batch of attending films were ceremoniously announced around 10am this morning in what is shaping up to be one of the most prolific, star-studded years in festival history!
75 films were announced Tuesday in what should become roughly 290 total, at least equalling last years output. Expect the entire Midnight Madness lineup to be released July 30, with the remaining films formally presented throughout the coming weeks. Check out the Galas here and the Special Presentations here.
The most notable from the first batch are as follows:
August: Osage County John Wells, USA, World Premiere:
August: Osage County tells the dark, hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them. Based on Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize– and Tony Award–winning 2007 play of the same name. Starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Sam Shepard and Chris Cooper.
The Fifth Estate Bill Condon, USA, World Premiere:
Triggering an age of high-stakes secrecy, explosive news leaks and the trafficking of classified information, WikiLeaks forever changed the game. This dramatic thriller based on real events reveals the quest to expose the deceptions and corruptions of power that turned an Internet upstart into the 21st century’s most fiercely debated organization. The story begins as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his colleague Daniel Domscheit-Berg (Daniel Brühl) team up to become underground watchdogs of the privileged and powerful. On a shoestring, they create a platform that allows whistleblowers to anonymously leak covert data, shining a light on the dark recesses of government secrets and corporate crimes. Soon, they are breaking more hard news than the world’s most legendary media organizations combined. But when Assange and Berg gain access to the biggest trove of confidential intelligence documents in U.S. history, they battle each other and a defining question of modern time: what are the costs of keeping secrets in a free society — and what are the costs of exposing them? The film also stars David Thewlis, Stanley Tucci, Laura Linney, Anthony Mackie and Dan Stevens.
Kill Your Darlings John Krokidas, USA, International Premiere:
Kill Your Darlings is the true story of friendship and murder that led to the birth of an entire generation. This is the previously untold story of murder that brought together a young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston), and William Burroughs (Ben Foster) at Columbia University in 1944, providing the spark that would lead to their Beat Revolution. Also stars Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen, Kyra Sedgwick and John Cullum.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Justin Chadwick, South Africa, World Premiere:
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is based on South African President Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education, and 27 years in prison before working to rebuild his country’s once-segregated society. Starring Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela, and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela.
Rush Ron Howard, United Kingdom/Germany, International Premiere:
Two-time Academy Award winner Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Frost/Nixon) teams up once again with two-time Academy Award–nominated writer Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) on Rush — a spectacular big-screen re-creation of the merciless 1970s rivalry between James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl). Also features Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara and Pierfrancesco Favino.
12 Years a Slave Steve McQueen, USA, World Premiere:
12 Years a Slave tells the incredible true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in 1841 and finally freed in 1853. The story is a triumphant tale of one man’s courage and perseverance to reunite with his family that serves as an important historical and cultural marker in American history. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Garret Dillahunt, Paul Giamatti, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o, Adepero Oduye, Sarah Paulson, Brad Pitt, Michael Kenneth Williams and Alfre Woodard.
Blue Is The Warmest Color Abdellatif Kechiche, France, North American Premiere:
At 15, Adèle doesn’t question it: girls go out with boys. Her life is changed forever when she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair, who will allow her to discover desire, to assert herself as a woman and as an adult. In front of others, Adèle grows, seeks herself, loses herself, and finds herself. Starring Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos.
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her Ned Benson, USA
The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her is a two-part love story seen through the eyes of a New York couple trying to understand each other as they cope with personal hardship. The different perspectives of “Him” and “Her” result in two films with a unique look into one couple’s attempt to reclaim the life and love they once had. Starring Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Nina Arianda, Viola Davis, Bill Hader, Ciarán Hinds, Isabelle Huppert, William Hurt, and Jess Weixler.
Don Jon Joseph Gordon-Levitt, USA, Canadian Premiere:
Jon Martello (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a strong, handsome, good old fashioned guy. His buddies call him Don Jon due to his ability to “pull” a different woman every weekend, but even the finest fling doesn’t compare to the bliss he finds alone in front of the computer watching pornography. Barbara Sugarman (Scarlett Johansson) is a bright, beautiful, good old fashioned girl. Raised on romantic Hollywood movies, she’s determined to find her Prince Charming and ride off into the sunset. Wrestling with good old fashioned expectations of the opposite sex, Jon and Barbara struggle against a media culture full of false fantasies to try and find true intimacy in this unexpected comedy.
Gravity Alfonso Cuarón, USA/United Kingdom, North American Premiere:
Gravity is a heart-pounding thriller that pulls its audience into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space. Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a brilliant medical engineer accompanied on her first shuttle mission by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney). On a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone — tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth… and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But their only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.
To say that I am excited for TIFF 2013 would be a massive understatement! Can’t wait to see what other films will be joining this first wave.