x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

No media fanfare as Dubai Film Festival honours Mandela at premiere of biopic

Naomie Harris and Lindiwe Matshikiza, who both acted in 'Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom', led the way along a candlelit dark carpet void of the usual media fanfare as a mark of respect for Nelson Mandela.

The British actor, Idris Elba, left, as Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Courtesy Toronto International Film Festival
The British actor, Idris Elba, left, as Nelson Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. Courtesy Toronto International Film Festival

DUBAI // Emotions ran high at the poignant Middle Eastern premiere of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom on Tuesday night.

Naomie Harris, who plays Mandela’s wife Winnie in the film, and Lindiwe Matshikiza, who plays his daughter Zindzi, led the way along a candlelit dark carpet void of the usual media fanfare as a mark of respect to anti-apartheid campaigner Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday.

The actresses introduced the biopic before asking a sold-out house at the Madinat Jumeirah to join them in holding a minute’s silence in his memory.

“Despite today being a very sombre day, the producer of the film, Anant Singh, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation decided that this screening should go ahead without any fanfare as it also celebrates the amazing life of Mr Mandela,” said Harris. “We are honoured to be representing Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom here at the Dubai International Film Festival tonight.”

Matshikiza welcomed guests before adding that both herself and the team hoped everyone would join them in remembering the life of a very special man.

“It is an extremely sad time for all South Africans as we mourn the death of the Father of our Nation, Nelson Mandela,” she said. “As you know, earlier today the official memorial service was held in Johannesburg. We are certain that you will be deeply touched and inspired by the film and the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.”

The usual glaring bulbs that light the carpet were dimmed. Instead, the route to the arena theatre was lit by candles. No photographers or television crews were allowed to film.

Guests holding tickets for the screening were encouraged to dress appropriately as a sign of respect.

South African Arty Tunner, 37, a business development officer living in Abu Dhabi, said he booked his tickets in advance. “I was looking forward to watching this film and the last week’s events have made it even more special for me,” he said.

“For my wife and I this is one of the ways we will pay tribute to him and I know it is going to be a tearful time. Mandela will be always in our hearts.”

Elizabeth Poeture, 25, from Cape Town, has lived in Dubai for two years. “I was concerned the movie wouldn’t screen when I heard the news,” said the graphic designer. “But I am very glad it is going ahead. This is the perfect way to remember someone you love. He is captured on film in this movie. That lasts forever. My memory of him will too.”

The film is based on Mandela’s autobiography, written while serving his 27-year prison sentence. The book was published in 1994, four years after his release, and he granted the movie rights in 1997.

British actor Idris Elba stars as Mandela, although he did not attend the screening.

“The fact this film is based on something Mandela wrote makes it even closer to him,” said film fan Peter Gonoult, 42, visiting from Durban. “Many movies and television shows portray Mandela but I like the sound of this one because it’s written around his own words. That’s very special.”

newsdesk@thenational.ae