“His insight was that his oppressors were afraid of him” – Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom + Q&A

Nicholson was asked what he would like audiences to get from the movie. He said:

“The way Mandela achieved his victory is something extremely significant on a global level. . . . His insight was that his oppressors were afraid of him. That the white minority were frightened of the people they were oppressing, and that if he could take away that fear, there was a chance there could be compromise and that they could live together. That is an extraordinary insight.”

The debate was opened to questions, and one audience member asked if Nicholson’s telling of the story has been influenced at all. Nicholson clarified:

“At no point did we receive instructions from anyone in the Mandela circle; I was given a completely free hand (to write the story).”

Another audience member, who shared a concern that the film’s focus on the morality of Mandela’s character may distract some audiences from his strong political influences, brought up Mandela’s role in the compromises made to facilitate the ending of apartheid. Nicholson responded:

“He [Mandela] made huge compromises, he lost a lot along the way, but he achieved something, and I’m making a film to celebrate that.”

When asked whether a South African actor was, or should have been, considered to play the leading role, Nicholson explained that the filmmakers failed to find a suitable South African actor before deciding on Idris Elba, whose performance Nicholson described as “astonishing”.

The final question addressed the message that the film should offer to the people of South Africa today. Nicholson hoped that South Africans will feel “enormous drive in what was achieved by their own people at that time of the struggle, and a sense that in the end moral qualities are what achieve that.”

 “What I want to say [with this film] is the opposite of ‘power comes from the barrel of a gun’”.

The film will be released in cinemas nationwide on 3 January 2014. You can watch a trailer here.