"If You Marry Mandela, You Marry The Cause And You Live In His Shadow"
"If you marry Mandela, you marry the cause and you live in his shadow." Those words were offered early in this TV docu-drama by Winnie Mandela (played absolutely brilliantly by Sophie Okonedo.) The movie traces Winnie's evolution from an uncertain wife of a larger than life figure who struggles with those words, to an increasingly jealous and ambitious woman who tires of living in Mandela's shadow and is increasingly unwilling to be married to the cause - because she wants to lead the cause. That tension reaches its height when Nelson is released from prison, and Winnie - after being at the top of the heap for a long time - is suddenly reminded that now she needs to act "like Prince Philip" - walking one step behind Mandela at all times. The movie makes the clear point that their relationship was in trouble the moment Nelson was released from prison. Interspersed throughout the movie are scenes of Winnie's own brutal and abusive interrogation by the white South African police, and a depiction of how brutal and abusive she eventually became toward other blacks who she felt had betrayed the cause.
In addition to Okonedo, David Harewood offered a convincing performance as Nelson Mandela (although he was definitely in Okonedo's shadow) and Garth Breytenbach was frighteningly convincing as the South African police officer in charge of Winnie's interrogation. This was undoubtedly a difficult movie to make - first because it deals with figures who are still very much with us (Nelson has deservedly become something of a legend) and second because it spans so much time and so much history and so many issues and events that to do it justice in the course of a 90 minute TV movie is probably impossible. No doubt there are times when this seems somewhat rushed, or when some things don't seem to be sufficiently explained or put into their proper context. Even with those limitations, though, this really can't fail but to be seen as a powerful and superb production. 9/10
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