Invictus

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Vishall Bhoopsingh

Professor Whalen

Composition II

13 December 2012

Invictus

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he

stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and

controversy.” The Reverend Dr. King preached that in times of hardship and distress, a man’s

decisions and actions, no matter how unpopular or disfavored they might be, truly define his

character. No other person embodies Dr. King’s profound message more than former South

African President Nelson Mandela, who used South Africa’s rugby team as an instrument to

unite his economically and racially divided country after many years of inequality brought forth

by Apartheid, a near 50 year long period of racial segregation and white supremacy. Mandela’s

work of bringing South Africa to democracy is retold and glorified in Director Clint Eastwood’s

Oscar-nominated film, Invictus. Clint Eastwood molds Mandela’s unique character into a soft-

spoken, yet powerful leader, who employs the universal language of sports to unite post-

apartheid South Africa. Director Eastwood balances this film with an equal combination of

historical significance and Hollywood drama, so as to keep viewers enticed without having them

feel like they are listening to a history lecture.

Nelson Mandela wasted no time in his mission to remove hate and racial inequality from

his country, and he did so one step at a time. During the first few days of his first term, Mandela

noticed that all the cabinet members of the Apartheid regime were packing their belongings and leaving as Mandela’s newly elected cabinet members stepped in to replace them. Seeing this as

an opportunity to remove racial segregation in the workplace, Mandela humbly asked the

Afrikaner members to stay and join his new committee in an effort to promote equality and

interdependence throughout post-apartheid South Africa. Daniel Leiberfield, author of “Peace

Profile: Nelson Mandela”, describes just how generous and forgiving Mandela was to the

Afrikaners: “He performed an array of symbolic gestures, such as inviting his former jailers and

prosecutors to official meals, visiting the 94-year-old widow of apartheid’s founding father, and

addressing gatherings of Afrikaner business and cultural organizations” (391). Everyone was

struck by Mandela’s forgiveness, even the black Africans of his own cabinet, who have to work

alongside the same Afrikaners who introduced Apartheid. I commend Eastwood for including

this event in the film because it showcases both Mandela’s altruism to non-African groups and

willingness to promote progress in his country.

It is evident that Clint Eastwood focused on maintaining a balance between using

historical facts and Hollywood drama in the making of Invictus. This is especially true

While I do agree that the historical events portrayed in this film were all significant to

include, such as the Springboks’ visit to Mandela’s cell on Robben Island and their victory in the

Rugby World Cup, I felt the movie would have made more sense if it had mention the

Sharpeville Massacre, a horrific incident in which Afrikaner police officers opened fire on a

“peaceful” protest attended by nearly 5,000 black Africans in Sharpeville, killing more than 50

black people. They had gathered near the station to protest the passing of a law which states that

“anyone found in a public place without their book [passport] will be arrested and detained for

up to 30 days” (bbc.com). This would have been an essential event to at least mention in the

movie because Mandela’s violent response to this horrific incident cost him his jail sentence.

Overall, the film was historically accurate and entertaining to watch. Morgan Freeman

and Matt Damon embodied their respective roles so well that I even mistook them...
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