Many critics have been lauding this year’s Toronto International Film Festival as the finest film festival lineup in history – much less a programme, than a dry run for Oscars night. Among those movies celebrated, ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ has been central to the hype.
Laying out the legend of Nelson Mandela in grand, sonorous style, the film paints a sprawling portrait of the South African freedom fighter – from his rural upbringing to his inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.
Attending the film’s premiere, British actor Idris Elba – best known for his role in the HBO series ‘The Wire’ – said portraying Nelson Mandela had been the role of a lifetime: “There were massive challenges, huge challenges. Everything from the performance aspects – I mean I don’t look like Mr. Mandela, so how do I capture this man? – to also just the weight of playing a living legend who almost everybody can do some sort of impression of.”
British actress Naomi Harris plays Mandela’s former wife Winnie Mandela, whom she met in order to prepare for the role. Fully aware of Winnie’s reputation as a fearless and combative personality, Harris said she was nervous about playing, and meeting, the anti-apartheid crusader: “Meeting Winnie was incredibly intimidating because she is a really formidable woman. But she was incredibly generous as well. She said ‘look, you have done your research and I trust you to create the role as you see fit.’ So she gave me a free reign really.”
‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ opens in European cinemas in December.
Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of United States President John F Kennedy’s death in 1963, the screening of Peter Landesman’s ‘Parkland’ was also a festival highlight.
In this gripping re-enactment of President Kennedy’s assassination, Zac Efron, plays Dr. Charles Carrico – the young medic on duty at the Parkland Hospital that day, charged with saving JFK.
In the wake of other films which have concentrated on the conspiracies surrounding the assassination – such as ‘JFK’ and ‘Ruby’ – Efron reflected on what it meant to stick to the official sequence of events: “It’s hard for someone my age to really learn about this day without hearing twenty different conspiracy theories about what happened. I really enjoy that this movie doesn’t delve into any of that. We try to stick to the simple truths. What we know happened, for a fact”.
Landesman echoed these sentiments, claiming that cinema’s preoccupation with the conspiracies had “narrowed” the understanding of this American tragedy.
As he explained, he wanted ‘Parkland’ to be something more up close and personal: “I feel like film audiences will have experienced the assassination for the very first time, that’s what they’re going to take away from this movie.”
Turning the camera 180 degrees away from the main protagonist, the film focuses instead on the extras – the doctors, nurses, secret service agents, police and everyday people who were in Dallas on that fateful evening, for an event that would change their lives forever.
‘Parkland’ is set for European release in October this year.