As first TOLDJAed by recently ousted Deadline editor Nikki Finke, today saw the passing of Nelson Mandela, “subject of Weinstein Co.’s Idris Elba-starrer Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, which opened Nov. 29 and has awards buzz.” Mandela was 95—considerably older than Justin Chadwick’s biopic Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom, which opened only a few days ago, but is already receiving awards buzz. Today, Nelson Mandela is being mourned across the world by all who look to him as a symbol of the struggle against racial oppression, of the strength of peaceful resistance and forgiveness, and of the bottomless capacity for humanity, and by Nikki Finke as the subject of a movie she saw.
Prior to being portrayed by Idris Elba in Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (in theaters now), Nelson Mandela fought for the liberation of South Africa, defying apartheid in real-life scenes of protest that were not nearly as dramatically lit or scored as they are in the movies. After becoming the face of the African resistance, over years that played out in real time, rather than in an exciting montage, Mandela was charged with high treason, and sentenced to life in prison. He went on to serve 27 years in jail, becoming a living martyr whose ideals of a free and democratic society became championed all around the world and, eventually—sometime before Nov. 29, it's believed—inspired the awards-buzzy film Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom. During his prison sentence, Mandela suffered greatly for his cause, enduring physical and mental humiliation, and missing untold numbers of movies.
After being freed in 1990, Mandela resumed his fight against apartheid and—four years after his release—became South Africa’s first black president, an honor that would arguably only be topped by eventually having Idris Elba play him in a movie with awards buzz. During this time, Nelson Mandela also had awards buzz, racking up a U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Order of Canada, the Lenin Peace Prize, and even the Nobel Peace Prize. Unfortunately, the Oscar remained elusive, though there are some, such as popular blogger Nikki Finke, who believe the movie about him has a chance.
Mandela was the subject of many artistic tributes over the years, including songs that were dedicated to him by the likes of Elvis Costello and Stevie Wonder, and movies in which he was portrayed by actors like Dennis Haysbert, Morgan Freeman, and, most recently, Idris Elba. He had largely retired from public life in the past decade, though he remained—and will remain—a powerful emblem of the continued, long walk to freedom. There is also a movie called that.