While Nelson Mandela Day is officially the late great leader’s birthday – 18 July – the event has become so popular that it’s expanded into an entire week of good works to improve humanity. But far too many South African kids and tweens will be oblivious as to why they’re doing 67 minutes of anything for good.
Mandela Week is a great opportunity to deep dive into what South Africa looked like 30 years ago, how it changed, and the real life people who made it all happen. So why not make it a family affair and make this week’s movie night a date with Mandela.
Based on Mandela’s 1995 autobiography, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, stars Idris Elba doing a very creditable performance as the young leader in his prime – beloved distinctive voice and all, and Wavin’ Flag by K’naan on the soundtrack to get your patriotic pulse racing. The more emotional Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman is built around the moment when Nelson Mandela and the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar, helped unite the country around the Rugby World Cup in 1995. There’s raw emotion, there’s rugby, there’s Morgan Freeman – you couldn’t ask for more feels in one package, even though you have worked hard to tune out of the American versions of a Saffrican accent. For real history buffs, the 1996 release, Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation, is the official film biography of Nelson Mandela. It’s all inspiring stuff.
But biopics aren’t for everyone, and younger kids might not find the ‘olden days’ lives of strangers particularly relatable or engaging. There’s always District 9 to get the human rights conversation going with the added benefit of exciting explosions and special effects; or Dr Seuss’s cute and colourful The Lorax to get them thinking about changing the world.
And for those of you who’ve forgotten what SA looked like before democracy, get your hands on the movies Fiela se Kind, Cry The Beloved Country or Cry Freedom for a trip way back into the bad old days. It will be a wake-up call.