Formerly, "This is Africa/fyeahAfrica".
(Profile Photo by J.D. Okhai Ojeikere)
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A LITTLE ABOUT ME:
Afro-curator, womanist, media studies student, pop culture enthusiast, aspiring journalist, curious amateur photographer, social media guru.
Based in Cape Town, South Africa
From Lagos, Nigeria
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(since Oct. 21st 2012)
Movies want heroes even more than movements do. They want a central character with whom the audience can identify, someone whose pain and whose triumph it can experience its own. Long Walk to Freedom has that character, as well as the performances from the cast, the cinematography, and music that it needs to sweep the audience into its world and into its emotions. Purely as a film, it works. Watching it is a moving experience. I’ll admit to choking up once or twice.
But it’s bad history.
Most importantly, Nelson Mandela didn’t free South Africa — not the man, not the icon. Both played vital roles, but they didn’t do it by themselves. They part of a movement that included the ANC, other liberation organizations, labor unions, civic and religious groups, and insurgent ideologies (such as Black Consciousness) that were larger and more crucial than any individual or symbol. Long Walk to Freedom’s unwillingness to tell Mandela’s story in context — that is, to tell the story of the man — means that it can’t make sense of anti-apartheid struggle, one of the most dramatic movements of the twentieth century.
There’s another way in which the movie fails Mandela. It de-fangs him. This Mandela has been made safe for middle-class, western consumption. His early commitment to strict African nationalism is nowhere to be see or heard. Instead the audience is offered ethnicity as a kind of fashion accessory. Mandela’s long-standing economic radicalism is also missing-in-action. Although he understood that South African capitalism was built on a foundation of white supremacy, western viewers will get no sense that the political and economic structures that they take for granted had much to do with the suffering of black South Africans. Instead, Long Walk to Freedom emphasizes Mandela’s allegiance to liberal democratic values and reconciliation. That’s not wrong, but it’s only part of the story.
Somali pirate stories were seemingly all the rage 3 - 4 years ago, in what I thought would likely be the beginning of a deluge of pirate movies, all fashioned after the piracy stories the media fell in love with, but failed to properly vet.
Of the many films that were announced, the highest profile of the bunch to finally become a reality is Columbia Pictures’ Paul Greengrass-directed adaptation of the story of Richard Phillips - the captain of one of the ships captured by Somalis (the Maersk Alabama), later rescued by the U.S. Navy, with Tom Hanks starring.
Titled Captain Phillips, the film opens wide this weekend. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will. Not only am I a fan of the starring actor and the film’s director, I’m also obviously very curious to see how this particular film handles the “Somali Piracy Issue.”
Not that I’m expecting anything groundbreaking in terms of depictions, but from the handful of reactions I’ve read/heard from those who’ve seen it, Greengrass does attempt to make actor Barkhad Abdi’s Somali pirate leader (Abduwali Abdukhad Muse, who’s currently serving 30 years in an Indiana prison), 3-dimensional and complex. But it’s still ultimately the title character’s story, as played by Tom Hanks. And as I noted in a previous post, it would be great, for once, to have a story like this, of this caliber, be told strictly from Muse’s POV, giving the audience a well-rounded picture of his universe, his journey, his background, his family, etc, and what led him to become the man he is in the film.