/ 17 June 2011

Winnie pooh-poohs film on her life

Winnie Pooh Poohs Film On Her Life

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela has turned her formidable wrath on the makers of a film about her life, complaining that she had no say in her transition to the big screen.

The film’s director, South African Darrell Roodt, has described Winnie as “the ultimate women’s movie” and “an amazing love story”. But Madikizela-Mandela has responded: “I think it is an insult. I don’t know what would be romantic in our bitter struggle.”

She told CNN: “I have absolutely nothing against Jennifer [Hudson, the film’s star], but I have everything against the movie itself.

“I was not consulted. I am still alive and I think that it is a total disrespect to come to South Africa, make a movie about my struggle and call that movie some translation of a romantic life of Winnie Mandela.”

Hudson, a former American Idol contestant who won an Oscar for her role in the musical Dreamgirls, was keen to meet Madikizela-Mandela before filming, CNN reported. But it said she was overruled by the producers, who felt it would distract her from the integrity of the book — Winnie Mandela: A Life — on which the movie is based.

Last year the producers said Madikizela-Mandela’s lawyers had written to them threatening action to stop production but they insisted they would go ahead. Speaking at the recent Cannes film festival, producer Andre Pieterse said the letter made it clear that “she would like to see the script and approve”, but he and Roodt had decided otherwise.

“The film will be made based on a screenplay that was well researched and without any interference, without any influence from any of the main characters,” Pieterse said.

Winnie, now in post-production, stars another American actor, Terrence Howard, as Nelson Mandela, whose marriage to Winnie collapsed soon after his release from prison in 1990. The casting has provoked criticism from the South African actors’ union, which also complained about the starring roles in the film Invictus going to the Hollywood actors Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon.

The biopic of Madikizela-Mandela suffered fiercely negative publicity when what emerged to be a leaked trailer appeared on the internet, earning widespread critical derision. The producers disputed its authenticity.

In recent years Madikizela-Mandela has inspired a novel, The Cry of Winnie Mandela; the BBC drama, Mrs Mandela, starring Sophie Okonedo; and, recently, Winnie the Opera at the State Theatre in Pretoria.

In marked contrast to her response to the movie, Madikizela-Mandela gave the opera her blessing and delivered a speech from the stage on opening night.

In the CNN interview she delivered a somewhat ambiguous verdict on the opera: “I honestly found it difficult to imagine how you would translate a struggle into an opera. I think they did an amazing job.

“Of course, not everyone would be happy about how that life was depicted. I don’t think it is possible to show 18 months of solitary confinement in an opera situation and I don’t think it is possible to transit to Brandfort and depict those nine-and- a-half years of banishment.”

She said: “It is not possible to translate the actual torture each and every mother went through. I was one of those who got the bitter end of the apartheid stick.” —