Mandela and de Klerk (1997)
July 23rd, 2007 by Maxim · No Comments · 7,266 Views
In 1964, Nelson Mandela, along with several other members of his party and political detainees, were convicted for treason (technically they were charged with capital crimes of sabotage, which Mandela admitted – the charges were easier for the government to prove then treason) against South Africa, and sentenced to life in prison. They were to be held on Robben island. Mandela’s closing statement at the trial was this:
“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to the struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.
Their imprisonment had become the symbol of violent struggle between white minority government and black majority against the policy of institutionalized regime of systematic opression and domination known as apartheid. Mandela became a cultural icon and an international symbol of struggle for freedom and equality.
In the early days Mandela was known for his Guerrilla activities as the leader of armed wing of ANC (African National Congress). After the Sharpeville Massacre ANC realized that non-violent methods of fighting apartheid were exhausted and began perpetrating acts of sabotage, while preparing for a Guerrilla war in case sabotage would fail to change the regime.
As I said, Mandela has become an icon of struggle for freedom everywhere in the world. Under local and international pressure, the government first plotted to arrange his escape so they can shoot him, but later moved him and other ANC top members from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison and began secret negotiations with them. Although little progress was made as regime was trying to prolong itself, Mandela was released in 1990 and ANC reinstated by the executive order by president De Klerk. Over the following years Mandela, as the new leader of ANC, lead negotiations with the government, while changing his ways of armed struggle to the methods of Mahatma Ghandi. Although many riots and massacres by government followed the assassination of a senior ANC member, Mandela advocated for calm. The assassination galvanized the negotiations, which resulted in new elections. Mandela was elected the president of the Republic of South Africa. He received Nobel peace prize in 2003, mostly for the policy of reconciliation advocated by Mandela. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu were among the fiercest critics of president Bush for starting the war in Iraq.
The movie starring Michael Caine and Sydney Poitier (”The last brick-maker in America”, “The Jackal”, “A Piece of Action”, “Shoot To Kill” and more.) was filmed in South Africa. Michael Kane was brilliant as always (couldn’t save “Miss Congeniality” though). He even resembled De Klerk - nice job, makeup artists! Well, what am I saying? Everyone was brilliant in this movie. Done on the cheap side without any special effects. A lot of newsreel footage to place you in time and place. Although the movie covers some 30 years of Mandela’s life – 3 times longer period of time then covered in “War and Peace”, the movie is rather fast-paced with a lot of suspense and tension. I was growing up in the 80s when TV news were filled with daily reports of violence perpetrated by white-minority governments in Africa, their police and military against the black majority: in South Africa, in Angola, in Namibia, in Mozambique.. well, almost the entire continent was a breeding ground for all sorts of radicals and communists. “Free Mandela” was the slogan at the time. So this movie had put me a few decades back in time. Nice.
I knocked off half-a-star because of the only movie’s weak point, in my opinion. I heard Mandela use “I didn’t spend 27 years in prison for this” argument too many times throughout the negotiations with de Klerk. I could not explain why the president just didn’t say, “Mr. Mandela, you were convicted in the court of law. You have admitted your guilt and were sentenced to life in prison!”. I am trying to rationalize this weak point: there could have been too much political pressure on de Klerk; the director or writer could have overlooked this expected reaction; they could have cut it from the film. Mandela must have said it at least 10 times in 1 hour 39 minutes of the film.
I recommend watching “Fidel”, a 2002 documentary film, I believe, by David Attwood: there is a big segment about Mandela meeting with Fidel and about Cuba sending military help (30,000 people) to ANC during armed struggle with the government. 3,000 Cubans died in action.
My other recommendation: watch “Stander“, a movie about South African cop who turns against the system after he is ordered to massacre demonstrators.
Trivia: South Africa had developed nuclear weapons, supposedly with the help of Israel, and then in the 1990s had become the only nation to date to voluntarily dismantle all of it’s nuclear weapons.
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