Several factors prompted me to seek it; Nelson Mandela fascinated and inspired me ever since I can remember, Morgan Freeman is one of my favourite actors, and Africa, (any part of it), has mesmerised me ever since I watched the movie Roots at the tender age of 12.
School lessons on history and geography of Africa failed to capture my imagination. It was not until I saw Roots and later searched for Alex Haley’s book on which the movie is based, that I glimpsed the open wounds of Africa. My young heart was breaking for all those subjected to cruelties, injustices, and discriminations. I was outraged; crying bitter tears of disappointment and anger.
Since that time I read other books and watched other movies about Africa, and much has changed in the world and in me. However, Roots will always remain my first memory of Africa. The place I long to visit one day for all its mysterious beauty, wild open spaces and sounds that break at dawn.
Invictus was originally released in the USA in December 2009. The movie is based on John Carlin’s book ‘Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation’ and tells a story about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, hosted in the country following the dismantling of apartheid.
After 27 years, Nelson Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, is released from prison in February 1990. Four years later he is elected the first black President of South Africa. His presidency faces enormous challenges. The country is torn apart from more than 50 years of racial tensions, poverty, and crime is rampant, while black and white Africans are deeply distrustful of each other’s.
Mandela is convinced only reconciliation and forgiveness can unite the country. And only united South Africa can become a proud, successful country.
Once he realizes that the country’s rugby team Springbok can serve as a bridge between divided South Africans, he sets to make it happen. In a year before South Africa is to host 1995 Rugby World Cup, Mandela convinces the country’s newly elected and mostly black sports committee, to support predominantly white Springbok rugby team, even though for many blacks South Africans the team represents white supremacy and all the injustices they suffered under it.
However, Mandela meets the captain of the Springbok team and implies that winning the world cup would unite divided country. Mandela inspires the young captain, François Pienaar, played by Matt Damon, and shares with him the poem Invictus that has inspired him during many long years in prison.
Against all odds and despite the doubts from both black and white South Africans that winning the world cup can unite the nation divided for so long, this is exactly what happened.
Motivated and inspired by Mandela who, in Pienaar’s words; ‘could spend thirty years in a tiny cell, and come out ready to forgive the people who put [him] there …’ the young captain motives his team to train with conviction and passion. As the games progress, support for the Springboks begin to grow among the black population, and eventually the whole country comes together to support Pienaar’s and Mandela’s efforts. Before the final game against the All Blacks, the most successful rugby team in the world, the Springbok team visits Robben Island where Mandela spent 27 years in prison.
The Springboks win the match on the added time and in the final scenes Mandela watches the South Africans celebrating together on the crowded streets.
While I am aware that there are different takes on this movie, the fact remains that it tells a story about the man who dedicated every day of his life to a cause so powerful that not only completely consumed his life, but became his only reason for existence.
Nothing, not even his own family, could come between him and his dream of a rainbow nation; free and united South Africa. While the country continuous to struggle with many challenges, as does most of Africa, the legacy of Nelson Mandela remains.
It is only when we give ourselves fully to our calling in life that we achieve great deeds for ourselves and our fellow humans. However dark and difficult our road is, if we know why we travel, if our vision rests on our destination, we will arrive.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
William Ernest Henley (August 23, 1849 – July 11, 1903)
- How Nelson Mandela Used Likeability To Succeed (rohitbhargava.com)
- The 50th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment (oup.com)
- Dear Mandela (louisproyect.wordpress.com)
- Black South Africans grow disillusioned with ANC (triblive.com)
- Vince Aletti: “Rise and Fall of Apartheid,” at the International Center of Photography. (newyorker.com)
- Release, Stunning Monumental Sculpture to Nelson Mandela (laughingsquid.com)
- Dear Mandela – a film on the new generation of struggle and hope in South Africa (revolutionaryfrontlines.wordpress.com)
- South African photographer who depicted apartheid dies (thegrio.com)