Presented by T.D. Jakes, this film dramatizes Winnie Mandela’s life from birth to the marriage.The movie includes the incarceration and post-incarceration of the recently departed unifying leader of South Africa who she married – the man known worldwide as Nelson Mandela.
Jennifer Hudson plays Winnie from the teen years until her late adult maturity. Viewers see her as a young girl going off to school to advance her studies and then catching the eye and giving her hand and heart to her husband, who was played by Terrence Howard. Hudson depicts the character with a plainness that portrays the range of aspects that seemed true of this figure. The real Winnie Mandela was in the headlines as an avid supporter of an end to apartheid, and she took up the mantle of leadership and protest when her husband was jailed for his efforts to unite people in South Africa and end the apartheid regime that brought minority rule and racial segregation to the country.
During apartheid, non-white citizens were not afforded the same economic and social rights as white citizens. The movie shows how the outspokenness of the two brought the force of law into their lives through incarcerations and other efforts to make them abandon their quest to deliver people living under the oppressive system.
Many may forget that Winnie was jailed and spent over a year in solitary confinement, but this movie reminds of that trying time of her life. In the film, Hudson shows the unbreakable spirit that Winnie displayed during that dark era when she was stripped of basic rights and had to fight to keep her natural mind during extreme isolation, rounds of badgering and profound neglect. Hudson showed the strong side of this leader and maintained an incredibly steadfast and powerful presence. She also displayed a loyalty to her children, her husband, and the cause he ignited in her heart.
In the movie, viewers see that harassment did not deter her, for she wouldn’t dismantle her plans to continue the struggle to overthrow apartheid. In fact, due to her efforts and her constantly being threatened and harassed, she gained some attention and protection from a group who unfortunately engaged in questionable tactics and activities.The movie shows how her affiliation with this group (Mandela United Football Club), who served as her bodyguards and more, led to a decline in her favor as a leader of the movement. This became more so true when the group were credited with the beating death of youth Stompie Moeketsi, and later claimed that she requested that he be dealt with for spying.
In the movie, we see a dedication and loyal love for her husband. The two seemed to exude a fierce love, with him hotly pursuing her as a young girl. Both actors had the uncanny ability to transform from extremely hopeful youths to elderly and battle weary warriors for the cause. This cause led to him being jailed for 27 years and her for about 500 days.
Make-up alone can not be credited with their physical transformations, for these actors seem to have ageless qualities in the first place.They are so fetching as young newlyweds dancing at their wedding that one almost believes it’s the real thing. They are preciously depicted as love interests before their first official date. They are serious and unflinching as they begin to act as Moses-like deliverers of their people. Not only do they transform physically, but they do so on so many other levels. This movie may show them both at their most versatile roles.
Casting got it right when they chose these two. The rest was up to the script and the acting – which were both superb.
I had the great pleasure of watching this film one day before Nelson Mandela died. I recalled thinking that it was good to see a slice of the life of the woman who captured his heart. Thumbs up to all involved. I even believe Nelson Mandela would have been proud of this production and given it a generous nod. It was good to live during this leader’s lifetime and see him break apart the apartheid regime, and show incredible forgiveness toward the government and the system that once existed. It was inspiring to see him become the president of that country when its new integrated era began. It was great also to know more about the woman who he joined hands with, and to see her depicted in this film.
Anne Marie Dupreez Bezdrob, Andre Pieterse and Darrell Roodt served as writers, and they deserve a lot of credit for their collaborative efforts to bring this character to life on film.