Mandela beats Winnie at the U.S Box Office
In year that many biopic films have flopped at the U.S Box Office, Justin Chadwick's "Mandela: Long Walk of Freedom" based on Mandela's own autobiography of the same title starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harris made $100,036, averaging $25,077 per theater from only four cinemas in New York and Los Angeles during the Thanksgiving weekend and if it continues with such impressive returns at the box office, the biopic has proved to be major success in contrast to Darrell Roodt’s "Winnie Mandela" that has been a failure since it was released in theaters on September 6, 2013. The star power of Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls; Sex in the City) and Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow; Red Tails; Iron Man) could not help “Winnie Mandela” as it flopped woefully at the box office grossing less than $100, 000 for a movie that cost $15 million!
Film critics said Jennifer Hudson failed to capture the true essence of the real revolutionary personality of Winnie Mandela, and even Winnie herself dismissed the film.
"I have absolutely nothing against Jennifer [Hudson, the film's star], but I have everything against the movie itself. I was not consulted. I am still alive, and I think that it is a total disrespect to come to South Africa, make a movie about my struggle, and call that movie some translation of a romantic life of Winnie Mandela," she said.
Negative word of mouth also worsened the prospects of the film and made it one of the box office flops of 2013.
"The story of the South African civil rights leader misses the mark on a lot of levels," said Claudia Puig in USA TODAY posted online at 6:03 p.m. EDT September 5, 2013.
Some South African actors also resented using American actors to play their legendary heroes.
"This decision must be reversed, it must be stopped now. If the matter doesn't come up for discussion, we will push for a moratorium to be placed on the film being cast in South Africa. We are being undermined, there is no respect at all," said Oupa Lebogo, General Secretary of the Creative Worker's Union (CWU) who did not like Jennifer Hudson playing Winnie Mandela.
Whereas Naomie Harris got thumbs up as Winnie Mandela in "Mandela: Long Walk of Freedom".
“Naomie Harris who starred in Chadwick's underrated The First Grader and played the new Moneypenny to Daniel Craig's James Bond in Skyfall, digs into the role, even when the script does not. Winnie's radicalization deserved more screen time. But we see her power thanks to the ferocity and feeling Harris brings to the role. Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a long slog of a movie that insists on hitting the high spots like a Wiki page, which leaves little room to investigate the political and personal changes that altered Mandela's thoughts about violence and its uses,” said Peter Travers in Rolling Stone.
I think the favorable reviews and Thanksgiving weekend at the U.S Box Office helped to pull crowds for "Mandela: Long Walk of Freedom". And per box office, it has done better than Spike Lee's "Oldboy" that could only make $850,000 from 583 theaters when “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Frozen” broke the previous Thanksgiving box office record of $82.4m set by “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone” in 2001.
Idris Elba himself has rated his portrayal of Nelson Mandela as “hands down the best” of all the biopic films on the great anti-apartheid hero to date.
“Morgan Freeman is outstanding. Terrence Howard is an outstanding actor. But my film is about his life,” Elba told The Guardian in an interview posted on Thursday March 28, 2013; 13.20 GMT. But some critics have different views.
"By failing to deal in any significant way with Mandela's politics and refusing to spend any time examining what it was about him that propelled him into such a visible role in the liberation movement, the film does itself an insurmountable disservice," said reviewer Tymon Smith.
South Africa's major cinema chains Ster Kinekor and NuMetro reported impressive returns at the box office as thousands of South Africans thronged their theaters as it opened last Thursday November 28, grossing over $73,000 (750,000 rand) with a daily screen average of $843 (R 8,620), beating the highly rated “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” by 39 percent. And bringing smiles to South African producer Anant Singh, who spent 16 years developing the film.
~ By Ekenyerengozi Michael Chima.