Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJustin Chadwick
Screenplay byWilliam Nicholson
Based onLong Walk to Freedom
by Nelson Mandela
Produced by
CinematographyLol Crawley
Edited byRick Russell
Music byAlex Heffes
  • Pathé
  • Videovision Entertainment
  • Distant Horizon
  • Origin Pictures
Distributed by20th Century Fox (United Kingdom)
United International Pictures (South Africa)[1]
Release dates
  • 7 September 2013 (2013-09-07) (TIFF)
  • 28 November 2013 (2013-11-28) (South Africa)
  • 3 January 2014 (2014-01-03) (United Kingdom)
Running time
146 minutes[2]
  • United Kingdom
  • South Africa[3]
Budget$35 million[4]
Box office$28 million[1]

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a 2013 biographical film directed by Justin Chadwick from a script written by William Nicholson and starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris. The film is based on the 1994 autobiographical book Long Walk to Freedom by anti-apartheid revolutionary and former South African President Nelson Mandela.[5]


Based on South African President Nelson Mandela's autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education and 27 years in prison before becoming President of South Africa and working to rebuild the country which was ravaged by Apartheid.[6]



Producer Anant Singh started working on the project after interviewing Mandela while he was still imprisoned two decades prior.[7] Following the publication of Mandela's autobiography, Singh was granted the rights to the film adaptation, which was completed 16 years later by screenwriter William Nicholson. The film is directed by Justin Chadwick.


For the film, U2 wrote the song "Ordinary Love".[8][9] Subscribers of the band's official website were able to hear a short snippet first.[10]


The film held its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on 7 September 2013.[7][11] It was released on 28 November 2013 in South Africa and on 3 January 2014 in the United Kingdom, a week before and a month after Mandela died, respectively.

Long Walk to Freedom premiered in London on 5 December 2013 as a Royal Film Performance, an event held in aid of the Film & TV Charity, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in attendance, along with Mandela's daughters Zindzi and Zenani.[12] The announcement of the death of Nelson Mandela occurred while the film was being screened; the Duke and Duchess were immediately informed of Mandela's death, while producer Anant Singh (alongside Idris Elba) took the stage during the closing credits to inform patrons of his death, and held a moment of silence. Prince William made brief comments to the press while exiting the theatre, stating that "I just wanted to say it's extremely sad and tragic news. We were just reminded what an extraordinary and inspiring man Nelson Mandela was. My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family right now." The film was temporarily pulled from theatres in South Africa the next day out of respect, but returned on 7 December 2013.[13][14][15] On 8 December to mark the launch of the film a Gala dinner, private screening and charity auction in aid of the children's charity Onetoonechildrensfund. Sir Trevor McDonald was Master of Ceremonies for the evening, introducing the auction where one of a limited edition of 6 portrait heads of Nelson Mandela, sculpted from life by David Cregeen. The head was donated by the sculptor and sold in aid of the charity's work in South Africa.

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 61% based on 142 reviews, with an average rating of 6.21/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "It might be too respectful to truly soar, but there's no denying Idris Elba's impressive work in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom -- or the inspirational power of the life it depicts."[16] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average rating to reviews, the film has an average score of 60 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[17] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare average grade of "A+" on an A+ to F scale.[18]

Scott Foundas of Variety said the film "never opts for a light touch when a sledgehammer will do", but also praises Elba for "a towering performance, a Mandela for the ages".[19]

Claudia Puig of USA Today agreed that Elba's performance was powerful but felt the film was not as strong, stating, "Earnest and ambitious, the film suffers from trying to squeeze in too many milestones of Nelson Mandela's long life as he worked to end the oppressive regime of apartheid in South Africa. But the talent of the lead actors lends it heft, particularly the commanding performance of Idris Elba as Mandela."[20]

Jordan Hoffman from also gave the film a mixed to negative review: "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom should have been a layup. A slow burn leading to eventual triumph, moving speeches, Idris Elba raging against injustice, the world made a better place because of one man's sacrifice. But as crazy and offensive as it may sound, you'll get more chills from Elba's idiotic speech about canceling the apocalypse in Pacific Rim than you will in this by-the-numbers bore."[21]

However, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film a generally positive review with 2 and a half out of 4 stars, mostly circling the performances.[22]

Screenwriter William Nicholson claimed it didn't do better because of the movie 12 Years a Slave: "12 Years a Slave came out in America and that sucked up all the guilt about black people that was available. They were so exhausted feeling guilty about slavery that I don't think there was much left over to be nice about our film." He also speculated that the death of Mandela resulted in a Mandela "overdose" among people, so that they have had enough of him when the movie finally hit the theatres; "Suddenly the word came through that he died. We were deluged with Mandela stuff and after a week we all thought, please, take it away, we've heard enough about Mandela."[23]

Historical accuracy[edit]

Vincent Hiribarren, a lecturer in world history at King's College London, notes in his review of the film for History Extra, the website of BBC History Magazine: "[The film] clearly depicted Mandela's understanding of the apartheid years. Or, at least, what he wanted to let us know. As the film is not based on Mandela's life but on Mandela's own words, criticism levelled at Mandela's autobiography can also be directed at the film."[24]

The film was noted by many for the lack of resemblance Idris Elba had to Mandela. While calling him a "terrific actor", The Guardian criticised the film for the casting of Elba, of West African descent from Ghana and Sierra Leone, as the Xhosa Mandela, because Elba "looks nothing like the man he portrays".[25]

Turning to the 1976 Soweto uprising, Hiribarren said that the film "did not spend much time evoking this pivotal event, because Mandela did not say much about Soweto in his book. The Soweto uprising was, however, instrumental in creating a new political climate in South Africa that directly led to the politicisation of many young South Africans."[24]

Hiribarren awarded the film three stars for historical accuracy, and five for enjoyment.[24]


Award Category Name Result
86th Academy Awards Best Original Song U2 for "Ordinary Love" Nominated
ABFF Hollywood Awards Artist of the Year Idris Elba (also for Pacific Rim and Thor: The Dark World) Nominated
71st Golden Globe Awards[26][27] Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Idris Elba Nominated
Best Original Score Alex Heffes Nominated
Best Original Song – Motion Picture U2 and Danger Mouse ("Ordinary Love") Won
19th Critics' Choice Awards[28] Best Song Nominated
Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Awards[29][30] Best Sound Editing: Music Score in a Feature Film Lewis Morison Nominated


  1. ^ a b "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 1 April 2014.
  2. ^ "MANDELA: LONG WALK TO FREEDOM (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 19 February 2014. Retrieved 19 February 2014.
  3. ^ "Mandela Long Walk to Freedom". British Film Institute. Archived from the original on 18 February 2014. Retrieved 2 December 2013.
  4. ^ Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, Dark Horizons. Dark Horizons. Retrieved 4 March 2014.
  5. ^ "Weinstein Company to release 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom'". Yahoo! Movies. Yahoo!. 22 February 2013. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  6. ^ "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom". The Weinstein Company. 2013. Archived from the original on 8 December 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Nelson Mandela Biopic Explores What Makes a Fearless Leader Tick". Rolling Stone. 14 September 2013. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  8. ^ "U2 - Ordinary Love (From Mandela OST) Lyric Video". U2VEVO. 22 November 2013. Retrieved 23 October 2017. U2 premieres their new song Ordinary Love (from Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom).
  9. ^ "'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' Trailer Features New U2 Song 'Ordinary Love'". The Wall Street Journal. 17 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  10. ^ "Ordinary Love". 17 October 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2013.
  11. ^ "Nelson Mandela biopic to have world premiere at Toronto". BBC News. 23 July 2013. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  12. ^ Kemp, Stuart (10 October 2013). "'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' to Get Royal Audience". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 9 June 2022.
  13. ^ "Nelson Mandela death announced at Long Walk to Freedom film premiere". The Guardian. London. 6 December 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  14. ^ "Nelson Mandela Mourned By William and Kate at Royal Film Performance". Variety. 5 December 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  15. ^ "How 'Mandela' Royal Premiere Audience Reacted to News of Leader's Death (Exclusive Video)". The Hollywood Reporter. 7 December 2013. Retrieved 9 December 2013.
  16. ^ "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved 10 May 2020.
  17. ^ "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 13 January 2014.
  18. ^ Hammond, Pete (3 December 2013). "'Mandela's' Long Walk To Oscar Race: With Renewed Heat And A+ CinemaScore Now Was Rushing It To Make Toronto Fest A Misstep? (Video)". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 25 December 2022.
  19. ^ Leydon, Joe (17 September 2013). "Toronto Film Review: 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom'". Variety. Retrieved 20 November 2013.
  20. ^ "'Long Walk to Freedom' doesn't do Mandela's journey justice". 28 November 2013. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  21. ^ The 100 Best Movie Scenes of 2013 (29 November 2013). "Review: 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom'". Retrieved 21 December 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ Peter Travers (27 November 2013). "'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom' Movie Review | Movie Reviews". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  23. ^ 12 Years a Slave ruined my Mandela biopic, says screenwriter
  24. ^ a b c "Historian at the Movies: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom reviewed". History Extra. Retrieved 7 January 2014.
  25. ^ "A thoughtful Mandela biopic that doesn't dodge the difficult questions". the Guardian. 3 January 2014. Retrieved 13 June 2022.
  26. ^ "Golden Globe Awards Nominations: '12 Years A Slave' & 'American Hustle' Lead Pack". Deadline. 12 December 2013. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
  27. ^ "Golden Globe Awards Winners". Variety. 12 January 2014. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  28. ^ Peter Gicas (16 December 2013). "Critics' Choice Awards 2014: Complete List of Nominations". E! Online. Retrieved 16 December 2013.
  29. ^ Walsh, Jason (15 January 2014). "Sound Editors Announce 2013 Golden Reel Nominees". Variety. Retrieved 15 January 2014.
  30. ^ "'Gravity' and '12 Years a Slave' lead MPSE Golden Reel Awards nominations". HitFix. Retrieved 15 January 2014.

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