Nelson Mandela: The Myth And Me
South Africa, 85 min.
Directed by Khalo Matabane
Programme: Special Presentations
Already an award-winner as it slides into Hot Docs, Khalo Matabane’s Nelson Mandela: The Myth And Me offers a sobering and less than flattering portrait of the legendary South African leader. Framed around a personal note written from the celebrated filmmaker to his subject, the film isn’t an outright attack but more of a demystification of Mandela. Matabane’s treks though Mandela’s life and career piece by piece, bringing together a variety of expert interviewees like Colin Powell, the Dalai Lama, Ariel Dorfman, and Wole Soyinka to lend a variety of opinions on Mandela’s complex legacy. Matabane admirably didn’t come into the film determined to vilify or lionize his subject. He merely wants to understand the man the world decided to love and peek into forgotten corners of the story.
The image of Nelson Mandela that emerges is fascinatingly complex and at times infuriating. Matabane and his interview subjects can be ruthless as they recall Mandella’s terrorist reputation, the misappropriation of his image as the ultimate symbol of apartheid, the thousands of contemporaries who suffered worse fates without any international attention, and the leader’s misguided decision to forgive the war criminals he should have punished. By the end, the director doesn’t deny what Mandela accomplished, but also lays bare the open wounds left in South Africa as a result of Mandela’s political legacy. Throughout it all Matabane lingers on beautiful, yet sad images of a country still in turmoil. When he concludes with voices of South African youths still deeply repressed despite their post-apartheid freedoms, it’s clear that the country remains dangling on the precipice of the revolution that Mandela never fully delivered. A wonderful exploration of a complicated man and even more complicated issues that feels like vital viewing.