An ongoing film tour geared toward college students nationwide gained a new level of timeliness and poignancy last week.
In collaboration with The Weinstein Company, The Coca-Cola Company is bringing the film “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” to eight U.S. cities this winter, offering free admission to local college students, faculty and staff. More than 1,300 people have attended screenings in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., New Orleans, Seattle and Houston.
Just hours before the Houston screening was due to start on Dec. 5, the world received news that Nelson Mandela – revolutionary, politician and former president of South Africa – had passed away at age 95.
“Nelson Mandela is someone who epitomized the spirit of determination, of resilience,” said Demetrius Walker, who was attending the screening. “The fact that he was able to go to prison for 27 years for what he believed in, and could come out and be such an example of hope for people not only in South Africa but all across the world, is just remarkable. The fact that this event is taking place tonight, on the same day that he died, is even more unbelievable. And I’m just happy to be a part of this.”
Directed by British filmmaker Justin Chadwick, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” is based on the anti-apartheid leader’s autobiography of the same name. It chronicles Mandela’s remarkable journey from early activism to the 27 years he spent in prison to the global outcry that led to his release. The film stars Idris Elba (“Luther,” “Prometheus”) as Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris (“Skyfall,” “28 Days Later”) as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
South African native Anant Singh, who was raised in the apartheid era in the eastern coastal city of Durban, produced the film. Singh was a personal friend of Mandela's and is recognized as South Africa's pre-eminent film producer, with more than 80 films since 1984, including some of the most profound anti-apartheid films made in South Africa ("Place of Weeping," "Cry, the Beloved Country," "Sarafina!"). In granting Singh the film rights to his autobiography, Mandela called him "a producer I respect very much...a man of tremendous ability."
Coca-Cola’s student tour is designed to promote the principles of fairness, civic engagement and servant leadership as advocated by Mandela throughout his life. Screenings will continue this week in Atlanta on Dec. 12 and Boston on Dec. 14. Tickets have been made available to students via EventBrite, although seating for the events is limited and offered on a first-come, first-serve basis.
During a post-screening Q&A with the cast and crew, Elba said, “I’m still carrying the weight of what Mr. Mandela has taught me about being a man.”
He later elaborated: “Actually, every single one of us is a powerful individual that can do similar. If he can do that and we can do that, then there’s a lot of change that can happen.”