*Director Justin Chadwick’s “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this week to a standing O for the cast, which features Idris Elba in the title role.
At a press conference for the film, Elba said he was unable to meet with the man he portrays due the South African icon’s fragile state.
“Like everybody, we’ve been concerned for his health, but keeping ourselves optimistic, and our prayers go to his family,” Elba said.
Below, the 41-year-old actor explains how he was able to craft a portrayal of Mandela without ever getting to meet him face to face.
“Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom” premieres in theaters on Nov. 29.
Below, the film’s new trailer, released Wednesday, Sept. 11:
Andre Benjamin portrays Jimi Hendrix on the first day of filming ‘All Is by My Side’ Dublin, Ireland (May 28, 2012)
*Open Road and XLrator have closed an acquisition deal for U.S. rights to “All Is By My Side,” the Jimi Hendrix film that John Ridley wrote and directed with OutKast’sAndre Benjamin playing the legendary artist in his formative years.
According to Deadline.com, the deal went down following its first screening Saturday night at the Toronto International Film Festival. Open Road’s Tom Ortenberg and XLrator’s Barry Gordon made the deal. While many other attempts to film the Hendrix story got halted because the Hendrix estate refused to grant permission — there was one at Legendary with Paul Greengrass directing Anthony Mackie —, Ridley made the movie anyhow, according to Deadline.
The film covers Hendrix’s early years as he failed to find footing in the U.S., found his mojo in England and then returned to America with guitar chops so ferocious that he reportedly made guys like The Who’s Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton contemplate other careers when they first saw his act onstage.
Described by Ridley as one of the most rarely told stories in rock history, “All Is By My Side” charts just over a year in the man’s life, during which he tried to make it on the streets and in the clubs of London. It also chronicles the lovers, friends, and musical collaborators who helped him become a star. Hayley Atwell, Imogen Poots, and Ruth Negga co-star.
Open Road and XLrator have yet to announce a U.S. release date.
Actor Idris Elba and actress Naomie Harris of ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’ pose at the Guess Portrait Studio during 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2013 in Toronto
*The premiere screening for “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom” at the Toronto International Film Festival earned a nice standing ovation at the end of the two-and-a-half hour biopic starring Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela. (Scroll down to watch the press conference.)
Boasting another two performances to add to the list of Oscar-contending portrayals this year – Idris Elba as Mandela and Naomie Harris as his wife Winnie – this beautifully shot and realized epic takes us into the world of Mandela from 1942 at the beginning of his activism all the way to his election as president after being released from his Robben Island prison cell after 27 years.
According to Deadline.com, “it is those prison scenes where the film really comes alive and Elba gets a chance to shine. That he does, in a towering portrayal of the man who stays in the headlines lately because of his frail health (he just went home from the hospital this week).
Count both Elba and Harris, for her complex Winnie, as good shots for nominations along with many of the technical aspects of the stunning looking film. Whether it has a chance as Best Picture is another matter. This is easily the kind of lusciously made epic to which Oscar voters drifted to in past decades – think Gandhi – but that seems to be changing.
Nevertheless if craft gets you in, Mandela with its great set pieces could make the race. It’s also intelligently written. Directed by English helmer Justin Chadwick, this film does not open old wounds but seeks to heal them. It’s fairly straightforward in its approach to telling Mandela’s story but, in his opening remarks, TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey said it is so much more.
(L-R) Director Justin Chadwick, actress Lindiwe Matshikiza, actor Riaad Moosa, actor Idris Elba and actress Naomie Harris speak onstage at “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom” Press Conference during the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 8, 2013 in Toronto
“It’s tempting to call the story of Nelson Mandela larger than life, but it is life. It’s the story of a man given a life sentence, it’s the story of a life of struggle, it’s the story of a life lived in the service of a principle,” he said before introducing veteran producer Anant Singh, who has labored 16 years to bring this to the screen.
“It really is a very proud moment to bring to fruition the work of trying to get Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom to the big screen. I started my communications with Mr. Mandela while he was still in prison, so that’s almost 25 years ago,” he said explaining how he eventually won the movie rights to Mandela’s autobiography.
The producer said Toronto is the perfect place to launch the film since he was in the city once before with Mandela when he spoke here. Elba was actually working in Toronto on Pacific Rim when he made the decision to do the film.
Director Chadwick made a point of thanking Harvey Weinstein and his team in making it all possible. “They have been passionate, committed and supportive of the film. And to see that energy and have a genuine love for the film is really extraordinary,” he said.
Hollywood doesn’t really make many films anymore of the scale and scope of this one so it will be interesting to see how it is embraced. In any event, it is filmmaking of the highest order and there should also be a special shout out to its musical score by Alex Heffes which really adds to the flavor.
Opening in December during the Christmas holidays it will be interesting to see its commercial fate. Clint Eastwood‘s Mandela picture “Invictus” didn’t even crack $40M domestically and won Oscar nods only for its two main actors Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon. A new film, “Winnie Mandela,” with Jennifer Hudson in the title role and Terrence Howard as Nelson, opened in the U.S. this weekend to little fanfare. It has been largely on the shelf for two years and played Canada for a week last fall before falling quickly off screens.
Whether “Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom” can stir more interest is a question The Weinstein Company is anxiously waiting to have answered. But it is certainly a movie worth seeing and talking about.
Snoop Lion in a scene from the documentary “Reincarnated”
*Snoop Dogg’s new film “Reincarnated,” which follows his transformation from hip-hop star to reggae singer Snoop Lion — will open in select cities on March 15, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
VICE Films and Snoopadelic Films are releasing the documentary, which made its world premiere in September at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Directed by Andy Capper, “Reincarnated” delves into Snoop Dogg’s recent trip to Trench Town, Jamaica, the birthplace of reggae and one-time stomping grounds of luminaries Peter Tosh, Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer.
The film also gives viewers unprecedented access as Snoop reflects on his turbulent and rapid rise from Long Beach to international icon to his rechristening as “Snoop Lion.”
The film will play in theaters in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago and Atlanta.
*Among the films premiering at this month’s Toronto International Film Festival [TIFF] was a documentary about political activist, author and scholar Angela Davis that was produced to coincide with the 40th anniversary of her famous acquittal.
In August 1970, the then UCLA professor was charged with the aggravated kidnapping and first degree murder of a California judge. She had purchased the firearms used by a 17-year-old high school student, Jonathan Jackson, to gain control of a San Marin County courtroom and take Judge Harold Haley, the prosecutor, and three female jurors as hostages.
As Jackson attempted to drive away with his hostages and two convicts, police fired upon the car. The judge, the prosecutor, one of the jurors, Jackson and the two convicts were all killed during the shootout. In California, “all persons concerned in the commission of a crime, whether they directly commit the act constituting the offense,” can be held liable.
Because Davis was accused of purchasing the guns used in the attack, including the shotgun that killed Judge Haley, a warrant for her arrest was issued — and Davis became a fugitive. On August 18, 1970, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover made Davis the third woman and the 309th person to appear on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.
Interviews with her lawyers, FBI agents involved in the case, news reports and reenactments are intertwined to document Davis’ journey throughout her imprisonment, trial and subsequent acquittal in the film “Free Angela Davis & All Political Prisoners.” [Scroll down to watch the trailer.]
“I wanted to make the film because what I knew of her was the afro,” said the film’s director Shola Lynch during its Q&A panel in Toronto. “I thought I knew the story, and as I began to do just the bare minimum of research, I realized there is a woman behind the icon, and I was interested in knowing how she developed from a young philosophy professor into a political icon. What are the choices that she made, what were the intended and unintended consequences? And as I researched that, I realized that it was a political crime drama. And I said, ‘This is a great story.’”
Director Shola Lynch, producer Will Smith, Angela Davis and actor Jada Pinkett Smith attend the “Free Angela & All Political Prisoners” premiere during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival at Roy Thomson Hall on September 9, 2012 in Toronto, Canada.
Will and Jada Pinkett Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment and Jay-Z’s Roc Nation production companies have signed on as executive producers for “Free Angela,” throwing financial support behind the project that managed to make history with its TIFF screening. It was the first time in the festival’s 37-year history that a non-music documentary was screened as a gala film.
“We thought when we saw this film that it has the kind of emotional depth and historic scope that really made sense for it to be playing alongside other gala films,” said festival organizer Thom Powers.
Director Shola Lynch, activist Angela Davis and actress Eisa Davis speak onstage at “Free Angela & All Political Prisoners” Press Conference during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival at TIFF Bell Lightbox on September 10, 2012 in Toronto, Canada
“We at Overbrook Entertainment are very proud to support this intriguing documentary about the life of Angela Davis,” Jada Pinkett Smith explained in a press release. “Filmmaker Shola Lynch has done an incredible job in revealing a piece of American history we thought we all knew.”
Jay-Z also added, “Shola Lynch has crafted an intricate and compelling film about Angela Davis. Roc Nation is honored to be a part of a creative collective that can present such a riveting story.”
Below, Angela Davis explains why she was initially “reluctant” to participate in Shola Lynch’s film, and why she eventually changed her mind.
The film has yet to pick up an American distributor, but will be released in France on Dec. 5. Watch the trailer below.
*Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard of the film “Winnie” will be among the bevy of stars scheduled to attend the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival, joining a lineup that includes Robert De Niro, Jason Statham, Clive Owen, Ralph Fiennes, Nicolas Cage, Nicole Kidman and James Gandolfini.
Hudson and Howard will walk the red carpet with their director Darrell J. Roodt into Roy Thomson Hall for the world premiere of “Winnie,” the Canada/South African co-produced biopic about Winnie Mandela, the wife of Nelson Mandela.
The Toronto International Film Festival is set to run from September 8 to 18.