Monday, December 14, 2009


  • Historical drama
    Based on a true story

    Racial segregation in South Africa began in colonial times but apartheid (the Afrikaans word for separateness) as an official Government policy was introduced following the general election of 1948. New legislation classified inhabitants into four racial groups: black, white, coloured and Indian. Residential areas were segregated by means of forced removals. Education and medical care were also segregated and public services for the other racial groups were inferior to those of whites.

    The African National Congress represented the main opposition to the government during apartheid. Nelson Mandela (born July 18, 1918), a staunch anti-apartheid activist, was the leader of the military wing of the ANC known as Umkhonto we Sizwe (translation: "Spear of the Nation"). In 1962 the South African courts convicted Mandela on charges of sabotage and for plotting to overthrow the government. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and subsequently served 27 years in jail, most of it in Robben Island prison.

    A springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) is a medium sized brown and white gazelle that bounds about on the African plains. It is also the name of the South African national rugby team and is a prominent symbol on the team’s green-and-gold uniform. The team was much loved by the ruling Afrikaners but hated by blacks. Although South Africa was instrumental in the creation of the Rugby World Cup competition, the Springboks did not compete in the first two World Cups (in 1987 and in 1991) because of the boycott by some Western nations and sports institutions not wanting to have anything to do with the country in light of its racial policies and oppression of civil rights.

    The game of rugby involves 15 players per side and consists of two 30-minute halves, with a brief half-time break. There are no time-outs, except for an injury. There are no "downs," as in football, nor is a "first down" required to maintain possession. In fact, possession is exchanged often and quickly. There are few long, sustained "drives" toward the goal line. Progress up and down the field is achieved grudgingly, usually in short chunks. The ball may not be passed forward, though it may be kicked forward. Players cannot be tackled unless they possess the ball. Play stops only when there is a rule infringement, or the ball winds up out of bounds, or when a team scores. When play is called because of a penalty the forwards of both teams link arms in what is known as a scrum. Another player rolls the ball into the center of the scrum and when it squirts out play resumes. Scoring is done by grounding the ball in the opposing teams “in-goal area” which is worth 5 points or less frequently by a successful drop kick through the uprights which is worth 3 points.

    Matt Damon: Springboks Team Captain Francois Pienaar
    Morgan Freeman: Nelson Mandela, newly elected President of South Africa
    Tony Kgoroge: Jason Tshabalala, Head of security
    Julian Lewis Jones: Etienne Feyder head of the white Special Ops police
    Adjoa Andoh: Chief of Staff Brenda Mazibuko
    Shakes Myeko: Minister of Sport

    With incredible insight Nelson Mandela knew of a way to unite his shattered country and bring about change. Although the centerpiece of his strategy was the game of rugby, there are other examples of how one person can play a pivotal role in history.

    There are excellent performances all around and some touching moments. Definitely a “feel-good” movie but with several shortcomings starting with hardly anything being said as background material to set the scene and bring us up to speed. Secondly since the game of rugby is such an important part of the story, and takes up a lot of screen time, the basic essentials of the game should have been explained so we can better understand what is going on. As it is fans of the game will be thrilled to see so much of it, non-fans less so.

    for brief strong language.

    During the introduction of the players before the final game, half the field is in shadow. Moments later with play underway the shadow has receded to covering just a small portion of the field, something that would normally take some hours to do.

    Ellis Park Stadium had been expanded to accommodate 60,000 spectators. After the game, President Mandela gets it wrong when he says something to the effect “all 68,000 were anxiously waiting the outcome”.

    Invictus (Latin for unconquerable, undefeated, unvanquished) is the title of a poem by English author W.E. Henley about one's capacity to rise above the myriad impediements life throws at us. A copy of the poem hung on Mandela’s jail wall for 27 years. The first verse reads as follows:
    “Out of the night that covers me,
    Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
    I thank whatever gods may be
    For my unconquerable soul.”

    In 1993, Nelson Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, sharing it with Frederik Willem de Klerk, president of South Africa at the time, in recognition of their efforts towards "the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa."

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