For South Africans, Mandela movie offers chance to say goodbye

Mon Dec 9, 2013 12:51pm EST
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By David Dolan

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africans have flocked to see "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" since the death of the anti-apartheid hero at 95 last week, seizing what they see as a chance to reflect on his life.

The 150-minute biopic starring British actor Idris Elba as Mandela opened in South Africa just days before the nation's first black president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate died at his Johannesburg home on Thursday.

South Africa's main cinema chain suspended screening the day after Mandela's death, but has since put on additional showings to meet increased demand as the country girds for memorial ceremonies, with nearly 90 world leaders attending, that will fete Mandela as one of history's great peacemakers.

"After his death, I felt I owed it to him to just go watch and understand more about his life," said 28-year-old Church Shikwambana, who saw the film in the capital, Pretoria.

The movie, based on Mandela's 1994 autobiography, had its royal premiere in London on Thursday, attended by two of Mandela's daughters and Britain's Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge.

The daughters were told of their father's death just before the film started. They immediately left the cinema, but requested the premiere go on. The prince and duchess were only told of his death just before the end of the movie.

A somber Prince William told reporters afterwards that Mandela's death was "extremely sad and tragic ... We were just reminded of what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was".

Movie critics have often panned "Long Walk", calling it "tangled" and "stodgy" in its attempt to squeeze into 2-1/2 hours the decades of struggle against white-minority rule that lead up to South Africa's first democratic election in 1994.   Continued...