The Will the Mandela Movie Even Win an Oscar Nomination?
By Danny Schechter
New York, New York: The whole world recognized and paid tribute to South African icon Nelson Mandela when he died at age 95. 91 Heads of State attended his funeral. The UN General Assembly organized a special tribute. His legacy is secure in official circles, and in the hearts of South Africans, but will there be recognition in the place that seems to matter to the media even more: Hollywood?
The Oscar nominations are due any day, and early on, it seemed, as if the epic movie about the world's most revered icon was a sure thing for Oscar consideration. Most of the main big newspaper reviewers loved it and, and its American distributor Harvey Weinstein has a history of influencing Academy decisions.
But of late, Mandela the movie lost its buzz, and is appears buried by the hype machine, almost treated as an also ran. The entertainment media no long seems to take it seriously. All the focus is on other films and the big US stars.
The producers of the movie, made in South Africa, albeit with a British director, Judson Chadwick, and Oscar celebrated screenwriter William Nicholson, were earlier hopeful that they had a good chance of winning at least one of the statuettes that quickly translate into a place in cinema history and more bang at the box-office.
For them, making this film was always far more than a commercial endeavor. In my book, Madiba AtoZ: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela, producer Anant Singh shares his passion for the subject and explains that it took 16 years and as many as 50 versions of script to put together the money and the cast. He was making it, he wrote, not only to honor Mandela but also tell the story of his country's liberation. His company worked as independents with no major studio behind them.
They were also very commercial in their calculations, doing what they felt they had to do to get it made and get it out, conscious of deferring to Hollywood formula, by focusing on the love story between Nelson and Winnie and, in effect, depoliticizing the story of a very political figure once known for saying, "The Struggle Is My Life."