My Article On The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitors Center…….

…….is here.

My Five Screen Portrayals of Nelson Mandela, From Best To Worst

bet-madiba

I had tried to avoid seeing BET’s “Madiba,” because I was afraid of it being really, really bad. I caught parts of it last night and was pleasantly surprised. Laurence Fishburne will die giving some great performance somewhere.

(Dear BET: I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but the little I saw last night made up for six hours of “New Edition” 🙂 Yes, I will relectantly admit it was a supergroup, but still….. SIX? LOL! I turned it off after the group sang “Can You Stand The Rain.”)

Anyway, the little I saw of “Madiba” last night was the Mandela that I had read about.

It made me think about how many times I’ve seen Madiba portrayed on screens big and little over the last 30.

Here are my five Mandela portrayals, from best to worst, with small commentary:

  1. Idris Elba in “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom:” No shade on Larry, but I wish he had been in this BET one! His movie did not really deal with the socio-political aspects of his story, but he did a LOT with what he had.
  2. Sidney Poitier in “Mandela and DeKlerk:” A cable TV film that should be seen more. (So, shhh…check it out :))
  3. Danny Glover in “Mandela:” Another forgotten cable TV film. (Shh…. :)) I remember falling in love with Alfre Woodard and Winnie Mandela at the same time because of this production. It’s important to point that this film was made during the Reagan administration, when The Powers That Be publicly considered Mandela a terrorist and many of the anti-apartheid protesters thought he would die in prison, sparking a South Africa race war.
  4. Morgan Freeman in “Invictus:” In a way, this should be higher, because Freeman’s portrayal of Mandela the reconciliation president matches the actor’s on- and off-screen assimilationist persona.
  5. The worst of the Nelson Mandela depictions was not hard to figure out. Beyond a shadow of the doubt, it would have to go to Terrence Howard (!) in “Winnie Mandela,” an extremely flawed film based on an extremely flawed book. (However, Jennifer Hudson’s extraordinary performance as the title character almost salvages the flick.) I struggled not to laugh out loud watching Howard, who, to be fair, was giving it his best.