Thursday, May 20, 2010

Madiba: The Life and Times of Nelson Mandela

You would think that my African history class would have talked about Mandela, seeing as he is one of the few African leaders most Americans can name, but he was only mentioned once, very briefly. So, I decided to go do my own research into him, and stumbled across this documentary, Madiba: The Life and Times of Nelson Mandela.
I found this documentary was very helpful and was easy to understand. Mandela was Xhosa, which surprised me (I assumed he was Zulu.) He was part of the anti-apartheid movement, along with many others. Unlike a lot of the other leaders, he was kept alive in prison on the off chance they had to have someone negotiate for power. And, as all Americans know, he was released from prison in his 60s and would eventually become the president of South Africa.
But there are lots of things that I didn't know about him. One of the things Mandela is most often associated with is nonviolence in the style of Ghandi, but the film showed Mandela did not condemn members of the movement who resorted to violence. It also showed how, when Mandela was on the run, he ran into a covert CIA agent, who gave him up to the white South African government. The most shocking fact was that Mandela, who spent time in a prison for hard labor, can no longer cry because he tear ducts have been so badly burned by the sun. I didn't even know something like that was possible.
The film had some really great footage. Mandela looks totally different in the young pictures of him. (Though, considering Mandela is now in his 90s, he looks really good.) They also showed some footage from Come Back, Africa, a film on the lives of South Africans in the 50s, mostly using the incredible mining footage.
What was really strange and good about this documentary was the end, where it criticized Mandela's economic policies. It discussed how Mandela has allowed Western companies to exploit South Africa for its resources, mostly diamonds. It explained how Mandela was in the pocket of these companies as early as the 50s, when they gave money to the movement. It then showed the dire consequences of this, mostly the rampant unemployment and poverty. Although this section of the documentary felt tacked on, I liked that it didn't make Mandela out to be a saint when he wasn't.
I'm declaring this research a success.

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