Analysis of South Africa Through Two Films: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and Totsi

Analysis of South Africa Through Two Films: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, and Totsi

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Analysis & Synthesis of South Africa
Based on the 1995 written autobiographical account of Mandela’s own life, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom serves as an inspirational biopic. Filmed on location in South Africa, the film focuses most of its time on Mandela’s early life and transition into adulthood, while dedicating only a small portion to Mandela’s life and political achievements after imprisonment. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom can be divided into three parts: Mandela’s early life and coming of age, his unfortunate imprisonment, and lastly the effects of his unexpected freedom.
The opening scene of the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom sets the stage for the first part of not only the film, but also of Mandela’s early life and coming to age. The film begins with a slow motion, mood setting depiction of native life as Xhosa children are shown majestically running and joyfully playing in an open field in the backcountry of South Africa. These young boys seem to quickly age to teens as the film cuts to a Xhosa rite of passage, of which Mandela is seen participating. From just these few minutes at the beginning of the film, it is evident that Mandela is not only a native, but that he will also endure -- and eventually overcome -- the hardships of racial inequalities, apartheid, and Afrikaner controlled South Africa.
During his promising young adulthood, Mandela was an up-and-coming lawyer in Johannesburg who fought, through the courts and use of his speech, for the rights of native South Africans. Serving as a member and later leader of the African National Congress, the film focuses on Mandela’s use of non-violent protest against the Afrikaner South African government. The film lacks depth in this period of Mandela’s life,...

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...theid activist, once said, “In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift -- a more human face.” That time is not now and, based upon interpretations drawn from these films and books, does not appear to be anytime in the near future.

Biko, Steven. I Write What I Like. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.
Gish, Steven. Alfred B. Xuma: African, American, South African. New York: New York University Press, 2000.
Mandela, Nelson. “Long Walk to Freedom.” Internet Archive,

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Directed by Justin Chadwick. 2014. Troy, MI: Anchor Bay Entertainment, 2014. DVD.

Plaatje, Sol. Native Life in South Africa. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1991.

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