Hollywood’s casting of the Mandelas. What’s your take?

 Members of South Africa’s Creative Workers Union (as well as some of my facebook friends) are seething with anger over the casting of Jennifer Hudson to play Winnie Mandela in an upcoming biopic of the South Africa’s former first lady. According this article  production for the film is to begin in May, but the union has threatened to delay shooting in South Africa.

 Oupa Lebogo, general secretary of the CWU, said of Hudson’s casting, announced last month: “This decision must be reversed, it must be stopped now. If the matter doesn’t come up for discussion, we will push for a moratorium to be placed on the film being cast in South Africa. We are being undermined, there is no respect at all.”

The union also criticized Morgan Freeman’s casting as Nelson Mandela in Invicticus. Unlike Invicticus, which was directed by American Clint Eastwood, the film on Winnie Mandela is beind directed by South African Darrell Roodt. Roodt also directed Cry the beloved country, Sarafina and Yesterday, which was nominated for an Oscar. In all three he worked with world reknown, award-winning, South African veteran actress Leleti Khumalo. 

According to this article  ;

Roodt defended his choice of Hudson; if it were a lower budget movie he wouldn’t have hesitated casting a local star, he said. He cited the movie Yesterday, for which he cast Khumalo in the lead role. “When the budget gets to R100-million, I can’t afford to take risks,” he said.

Roodt said this project, partly funded by the department of trade and industry and the Industrial Development Corporation, was bankrolled mostly with “high-risk money”.

Sounds like a question of dollars and sense. I can understand the frustration of the CWU and would be very dissappointed if it is true that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has not been consulted at all with regards to the production of this film. However, should Hollywood be obligated to use local actors/actresses for roles of national figures? Perhaps it depends on the target audience and who’s bankrolling the cheques?

What’s your take?

The list of non-South African actors who have previously acted as Nelson Mandela is long and includes Sidney Poitier (Mandela and De Klerk), Clarke Peters (Endgame), Dennis Haysbert (Goodbye Bafana) and David Harewood (BBC4 drama, Mrs. Mandela). Sophie Okonedo acted as Winnie Mandela in the BBC4 drama Mrs. Mandela. Okonedo also stars in Skin, the biopic of white South African Sandra Laing.

Remember Mel Gibson played Scottish legend William Wallace in Braveheart …. just thought I’d throw that out there.


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