The long-awaited adaptation of the autobiography of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (or Madiba, as he's sometimes referred to) was entrusted by Mandela to producer Anant Singh nearly two decades ago. Boasting a script penned by Oscar-nominated William Nicholson ("Shadowlands," "Gladiator"), the film features Idris Elba in the titular role and Naomie Harris ("Skyfall") as his then wife, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
As a third-generation Indian in South Africa, and thus classed as a non-white citizen, Singh was very much a part of the liberation struggle.
"Madiba was that icon for everyone in that struggle, and when I started making movies I believed that the story of this liberation is so profound, it had to be told," says Singh, who started his career in film production at the height of apartheid in South Africa.
It was through his close relationship with the prominent anti-apartheid activist Fatima Meer, who wrote the Mandela-approved biography "Higher Than Hope" while the leader was still in prison, that Singh learned more of the great figure -- his life, his journey, and a "possible story" for the screen.
"Fatima was the conduit of my introduction to him," says Singh, who first met Mandela six weeks after the leader was released from prison. "Fatima invited me to her home and there sat Madiba! I had no idea."
Before "Long Walk to Freedom" was published in 1995, Mandela invited Singh to look at the manuscript. "It took me the weekend to read and I immediately said to him: 'There is a significant movie here. I have to make it.' "
When the book hit international agencies two months later, the offers came in from Hollywood and a bidding contest began. Singh recollects that Mandela said: "This is a South African story, and I want you to tell it."
Of its highly visible platform as a gala presentation at the Toronto Film Festival, Singh says: "This is the quintessential South African story, and that of an international icon. We believe that it will bring attention to the entire South African film industry as it represents the incredible skill and talent that can be achieved by locals. The film is of world-class standards and will enhance the country's reputation in the international arena."
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