13 December 2012
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...
Cited: Ortiz, Cynthia. "Reconciliation: Mandela 's Miracle." School Library Journal 58.6 (2012): 54.
Biography Reference Bank (H.W. Wilson). Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
Lieberfeld, Daniel. "Peace Profile: Nelson Mandela." Peace Review 16.3 (2004): 387-392.
SocINDEX with Full Text. Web. 12 Dec. 2012.
Scores die in Sharpeville shoot-out. 1960. British Broadcasting Company. 12 Dec. 2012.http://
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