Reel Shorts | Winnie Mandela


On the latest episode of Reel Shorts, Jennifer Hudson gives her all in a drama that chronicles the life of South African freedom fighter from her childhood through her marriage and her husband’s incarceration in the film, Winnie Mandela.

Audio Review

      Winnie Mandela Review - FilmGordon Radio

Since his release from detention in 1990, the life of Nelson Mandela has been dissected, revered and celebrated. Often we forget that there were two people in that relationship, that struggle and this film sheds life on the “Mother of the Country,” Winnie Mandela.

Beginning with her proud father’s disappointment that instead of a son, he got a sixth girl, Winifred a.k.a. Winnie tried her best to make her father proud, becoming an exceptional student, social worker and later wife of the leader of the struggle Nelson Mandela (Terrence Howard).

After Mandela is sentenced to life in prison and sent to Robbin Island, Winnie finds her voice and place in the struggle, placing her squarely in the cross-hairs of racist and vindictive Colonel de Vries (Elias Koteas) who desires to break her spirit. Placing her solitary confinement for nearly year, even refusing to let her bath for half that time, Winnie survives the experience but loses her the majority of her innocence as well as her inner light.

As the struggle intensifies and her protection is threatened, she aligns herself with a group of people who later tarnish her legacy and take away her greatest ally, Nelson, himself. Oscar and Black Reel Award winner, Hudson gives a strong performance in the title role in a film that has many parallels to the recent film, Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

She also does an impressive job of capturing Winnie’s drive and tenacity, making us care about her even when life’s circumstances begin to wear her down. While both Hudson and Howard turn in solid performances, there is a reason that the film sat on shelves for two years before release. The film captures many of the pertinent details of the Apartheid period but while you care about her place in said movement, it doesn’t endear much consideration for the majority of South Africans going through the same struggle. Despite the film’s shortcomings, it is still refreshing to see Winnie’s story finally see the light of day!

Grade: B-