Truncating that national history within the biographical story of Nelson Mandela proves a difficult task, even in two and a half hours. Subtitles denote the historical timeline, and the movie follows sequentially, as one might expect, starting with Mandela's years as a young Xhosa boy. But for those without an understanding of the history of South Africa, making sense of both the dates and the subtle clues dropped in different scenes or bits of dialogue is a rough task. For instance, the film makes it seem as if Mandela becomes politically active within the African National Congress during the 1957 bus boycotts at the Alexandra station just outside Johannesburg; but he was actually elected to the national secretary of the African National Congress Youth League in 1948. Several scenes earlier in the movie, the notion of apartheid, instituted in 1948, and the despotic Homeland policy-by which the white National Party forced blacks and coloureds into specific, tiny geographical regions within South Africa-is given a passing reference: As Mandela and his first wife move into a glorified shack, an incredulous Mandela jokes about the diminutive nature of his new home.