James Gregory once lived in a farm and had befriended a native youth, Bafana, and had even had a photograph taken with him. Years later, now married to Gloria and father of three children (Chris, Brett, and Natasha), James has nothing but shame and regret, as many South African Caucasians in the oppressive Apartheid-era ridiculed him, leading him to hate Africans. He seeks to redeem himself by spying on imprisoned African National Congress Leader, Nelson Mandela. In the restrictive high security prison his job is to censor all written and verbal communications between prisoners, their visitors, and correspondence. James is uncomfortable when he witnesses Caucasian police and security officers' brutality against civilians, including infants, and tries to understand why Nelson became a rebel. This leads him to examine the 'Freedom Charter', a banned document, reportedly known to incite violence against 'whites'. And when he does read this document, he changes his mind about Nelson's ... Written by
When the car explodes in front of an office building after two officers walk by, the blast should have shattered the office windows (and there are sounds of breaking glass), yet they remain intact. See more »
[in prison, to his visiting wife, speaking Xhosa; subtitles read]
Tell him that all of us in here agree he should escalate the armed struggle. The country must become ungovernable.
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While many books and films about South Africa's Apartheid have attempted to convey the tension and the eventual dissolution of that sociopolitical scheme, few histories bring us as close to the core of the schism as does Bille August's excellent film THE COLOR OF FREEDOM. Based on the book GOODBYE BAFANA by James Gregory (with Bob Graham) the story details the relationship between Nelson Mandela and prison warden James Gregory during Mandela's long imprisonment on Robben Island off the coast of South Africa, and the gradual friendship that occurred between these disparate men. Studying this development of a friendship provides an opportunity to better understand the concept of Apartheid and of the evils of racism in general.
Nelson Mandela (Dennis Haysbert) was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on the desolate Robben Island for his non-violent attempts to end racism in South Africa, attempts that eventually resulted in work stoppages and resistance movements that moved the articulate, well-educated lawyer Mandela into the realm of activism. While on Robben Island he was guarded by one James Gregory (Joseph Fiennes), a pro-apartheid, cruel prison employee who was assigned to Mandela as a spy and censor because of Gregory's knowledge of the local language Xhosa (learned from his childhood when his best friend was a black boy named Bafana). Gregory lives on the island with this wife (Diane Kruger) and children and his commitment to his family provides a stark contrast to his hatred of his black 'Kaffir' prisoners: his involvement with the pro-apartheid status is strengthened by his direct communication with Intelligence in the cities of South Africa where his censored information from the prisoners leads to definitive capture and 'disposal' of the blacks. On a trip ashore Gregory and his wife and children witness first hand the beatings and cruelties of the whites against the blacks and Gregory returns to his duties on Robben Island with a gradually changing point of view for the model prisoner Mandela. They begin communicating in Xhosa and Gregory allows Mandela's wife Winnie (Faith Ndukwana) to spend more committed time with her husband on her restricted visits to Robben island. One particular misstep - Gregory passes Mandela's Christmas gift of a piece of chocolate to Winnie - threatens Gregory's status on the island, while at the same time bonding Mandela and Gregory like brothers. Gregory's life and philosophy have been changed by Mandela's powerful personality and spirit and his eventual release from prison into the new, freed South Africa has been aided in a small but meaningful way by Gregory - a reflection of Gregory's childhood bond with his friend Bafana.
August captures the tension and the atmosphere of South Africa in this visually stunning film. Fiennes is superb as James Gregory as is Diane Kruger as his wife. Dennis Haysbert conveys the spiritual essence of Mandela despite the fact that his physical appearance is not at all like the Mandela known so well from the still constant photographs of the diminutive freedom fighter we see frequently. But the film does convey the tenor of the changing times during the 27-year confinement of Nelson Mandela. The featurettes on the DVD offer lengthy history lessons about the real events referenced in the film and add immeasurably to the film's overall success. There is much to learn from this film in addition to the fact that it is a solid work of cinematic artistry. Grady Harp
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