Curiously, the nationalism and racial identity embedded in those awards represented the very values that the real Mandela rejected.
"12 Years a Slave' is the "black" movie expected to win, if any does. In that drama, a white man played by superstar Brad Pitt freed the slave, not a people's revolt. Its appeal may have had more to due with the legacy of inattention paid to slavery in the land of slavery--but, the guilt the movie plays to, as well as its pervasive violence gives it box office appeal. Recall black activist H. Rap Brown once observing "violence is as American as cherry pie."
Americans are more familiar with the apolitical themes of subjugation and victimization as opposed to liberation.
Mandela Long Walk to Freedom features violence too--but oppressive state violence, more than individual bad guys that you can hate.
Apartheid may be a more recent crime than slavery but the latter is part of a U.S history that some Americans---not all, for sure--are ashamed of. We know more about it than what happened in far away Africa albeit with US support. (Apartheid was modeled partially on our brutal system of relocating Indians to reservations.)
Slavery as a subject is also presented only as American, while Mandela dramatizes a freedom struggle in Africa that has not been front and center much lately in a news system that routinely treats Africa as a backward continent of wars, massacres and coups.
Mandela was one of the few African leaders even reported here and the fact that his death occasioned considerable coverage may have reinforced the idea that his story has been over exposed. Why see a movie version when the real man was on TV etc.etc?
That's a perception that certainly cut into the film's ticket sales.
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