Nelson Mandela’s greatness is world renowned. He had the rare ability to see the bigger picture and act, accordingly. He understood that “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”
“Invictus” is a powerful film about Nelson Mandela’s early presidency and outlines how even after his time in prison, he saw room for forgiveness for those who put him there and used the power of the national sport, rugby to bring an ever-so-divided country together.
Springboks Rugby, the South African Rugby team, was representative of apartheid history through its colors, flag and long symbolic power that had represented a divisive culture. Mandela knew this, as he himself had been harmed by apartheid’s lasting effects. However, he urged that Springboks Rugby keeps its colors. Consequently, the team’s pride and fan base, grew.
Played by Morgan Freeman, Mandela, speaks unequivocally about the power in and of forgiveness and that sport is the tool for community creation:
“Brothers, sisters, comrades: I am here because I believe you have made a decision with insufficient information and foresight. I am aware of your earlier vote. I am aware that it was unanimous. Nonetheless, I believe we should restore the Springboks; restore their name, their emblem and their colors, immediately. Let me tell you why. On Robben Island, in Pollsmoor Prison, all of my jailers were Afrikaners. For 27 years, I studied them. I learned their language, read their books, their poetry. I had to know my enemy before I could prevail against him. And we DID prevail, did we not? All of us here... we prevailed. Our enemy is no longer the Afrikaner. They are our fellow South Africans, our partners in democracy. And they treasure Springbok rugby. If we take that away, we lose them. We prove that we are what they feared we would be. We have to be better than that. We have to surprise them with compassion, with restraint and generosity; I know, all of the things they denied us. But this is no time to celebrate petty revenge. This is the time to build our nation using every single brick available to us, even if that brick comes wrapped in green and gold. You elected me your leader. Let me lead you now.”
Similar to a large variety of sports movies, the force of the underdog prevails and captures a full range of emotions, from defeat all the way to complete and utter joy, as you watch how sports have the power to bring people together.
Invictus is a must-see historical film that brings you to the edge of your seat. It also portrays that true, admirable leadership is achieved with compassion and through graceful actions. This movie pays tribute to Mandela and the light he cast around the world. In the same sense, it is also heart-wrenching. Let “Invictus” take you on a two-hour emotional roller-coaster where you will see the power of humanity roar to life through sports.
The film, A United Kingdom, is a true story that depicts the relationship between the United Kingdom and its protectorate, modern-day Botswana (then Bechuanaland). The United Kingdom seeks to both exploit and annex the land of Bechuanaland to its already established neighboring colony, South Africa. In spite of this, Botswana strives to become its own independent, united Kingdom.
The movie is set in England in 1947. The audience is introduced to the courtship of a black man and a white woman. Despite society’s non acceptance of their relationship, they fall in love and wish to get married. They are met with many trials and obstacles from both sides. This is due, in part, because the young man, Seretse Khama, is the heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Botswana. Consequently, the British government, the South African government and the current King of Botswana - Khama’s uncle, oppose his marriage to a British white woman. The South African government is involved because it had recently installed its apartheid system and therefore, did not consider a biracial marriage an acceptable, legal or binding agreement. Because of Britain’s resource-fueled, colonial ties in South Africa, the South African government threatened Britain with an ultimatum: either dissolve the marriage or risk having further access to South Africa’s resources. As is the case in many global conflicts, the roots lie in power and money - in this case, in the form of natural resources.
The film illustrates Seretse and Ruth’s fight for love in a climate that encourages relinquishing their love and parting ways. It also demonstrates how Ruth embraces her new Botswanan community and in turn, is slowly accepted into its society. Seretse juggles wanting to represent his people while also fighting for what is right— including severing ties with England, creating a life for his wife and child, and creating a united Kingdom where his people’s interests are met and not exploited. A United Kingdom is vibrant and touching, yet heart-wrenching and thought-provoking.
This true story also sheds light on the role that colonialism played across the African continent.. As illustrated in the film, Botswana declared its independence in 1966 under its first President, Seretse Khama. Today, Botswana remains one of Africa’s most stable nations. Its presidents have been democratically elected, its wealth is largely derived from diamond exports, and it is home to many South Africans who fled the Apartheid system. The film not only provides its audience with historical insight, but it also highlights today’s influence of colonialism, including the institutionalized racism that still exists.
A United Kingdom is an engaging watch, an historical must-see, and a film that implores its audience to reflect on and also to question the role that governments play in society.
*This film review includes spoilers.
Whale Rider is a standout Indie film that highlights the power of women in a male dominant society.
The film takes place in modern-day New Zealand amongst a group of Maoris, the indigenous people of New Zealand. It focuses on the story of protagonist, Paikea. Pai is the granddaughter of the current chief, Koro. Koro is looking to pass on his torch as chief, in order to strengthen the Maori community and to keep their traditions alive in the ever-changing world. Because tradition held that the eldest male heir is the one with the rightful claim to the throne, Paikea is not a viable option in her grandfather’s eyes. It is important to note that Paikea’s father, Porourangi, rejected his claim to being chief, when his wife died giving birth to Pai and her twin brother, who also passed. Before leaving his newborn daughter with his father and mother, Porourangi named his daughter Paikea. This was viewed as another defiant action in the eyes of his father, for the name Paikea is the name of the revered first ancestor of the Maori people, also known as the Whale Rider.
Throughout the entire film, Paikea tries to earn the approval and respect of her grandfather. Though he loves her, he does not consider her as able to lead their community because she is a girl. In the turning point of the film – when Paikea embraces her role as the Whale Rider and ultimately sacrifices herself in order to save the whales- Koro realizes the power Paikea possessed all along. She is and has always been the Whale Rider and no one but she could be the rightful Maori chief.
This film illustrates two substantial, current issues: feminism and protecting the earth. Addressing the former matter, the film depicts the multifaceted strengths of women through Pai and her grandma. Throughout the film Pai challenges her grandfather and his patriarchal practices. Alternatively, Pai’s grandma initially appears to be submissive to Koro’s temper, but she actually holds her ground. She is an example of someone who picks his or her battles in order to win the war – a nod to the wise women in my life. The power of women, whether overt like Pai’s or subdued like her grandma’s, is a constant theme throughout the film that progresses not only the plot, but also the leading man's thinking. Secondly, Whale Rider naturally focuses on the value of protecting the earth and its living creatures. The Maori people all come together as a community in an attempt to save the beached whales. They mourn for the loss of the whales that they could not save. The film does an excellent job of personifying the whales and their emotions through its music.
This is an important film. It is also a beautiful illustration of humanity’s interconnectedness with nature – a relationship that ought to be respected, especially in this day and age. Moreover, it is a call to women, especially young women, to stand up and to prevail towards what they believe in - no matter how difficult the challenge(s) may be. This film serves as a reminder that women have the power to create change and write their own history.