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Movie Review: 'Winnie Mandela' underrated film, J-Hud's best role yet

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'Winnie Mandela' movie


Some films slip through the cracks regardless of how impressive they are. "Winnie Mandela" fits into that category.

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Jennifer Hudson already has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and she's already won an Oscar in 2006 for "Dreamgirls," but her role as the iconic character Winnie Mandela who went through the trenches with the late icon Nelson Mandela is her best role to date.

Oscar award winner Terrence Howard did a fine job playing Nelson Mandela, but until Christmas, viewers may not know if Idris Elba does a better job.

In the film, based on a true story, Winnie Mandela was harassed from the moment she married Nelson Mandela. The cute way he courted her was short-lived compared to the reality of their relationship. At their wedding, detectives spied on the wedding so long that a young boy came over to offer them drinks. Detectives broke into their home.

And maybe men may not be as furious about one particular scene, but one detective, Colonel de Vries (played by Elias Koteas) who trashed the home looking for evidence to convict Nelson Mandela hit a new low. He opened the wedding cake box Winnie Mandela had, and he unapologetically ate the cake.

If that doesn't make at least women cringe, the rest of the movie will (for both groups).

A phone conversation in prison between the Mandelas talking about apartheid and politics lead to Winnie Mandela being forced from her home without any explanation of what would happen to her daughters, Zenani and Zindzi,. She spent nearly 500 days in prison and 400 in solitary confinement for a Suppression of Terrorism Act arrest.

While the Sun Times may feel like scenes with Winnie Mandela talking and playing with bugs in prison is "dangerous territory," other viewers may look at these scenes with sympathy at her desperation for any form of living contact. During solitary confinement in which she admitted nothing and detectives finally gave up on waiting for her to, one even buckled about the purpose of her imprisonment. Standing on bricks and grilled for hours about what she knew about the anti-apartheid movement were still met with no success.

No matter how pretty Jennifer Hudson is, the makeup cast was not playing around when it came to showing how a woman would look in solitary confinement without bathing. Even a detective talked about how much she smelled. And from the look of Hudson in this film, viewers could tell.

After releasing her, she was exiled shortly after and illogically blamed in connection to children being killed for speaking out against apartheid during the Soweto 1976 uprisings. One of her daughters cried while looking on at another child who was killed in cold blood. By the time she was able to come back to her home, with her children, from being exiled, she found out that Soweto had changed. She was attacked in her home, which was later burned, and rescued by a neighbor, Jerry Richardson (actor name undisclosed), who introduced himself as the leader of the Mandela United Football Club.

This is when the film started to take an emotional turn for viewers who were on Winnie Mandela's side. Nelson Mandela asked his wife to not be affiliated with the oftentimes violent group. She declined. Accusations were thrown out about whether she was sleeping with Jerry Richardson, and Nelson Mandela called her out for avoiding the question. But with life in prison, how could he honestly dictate the actions of his wife?

Scenes like this make it more than reasonable for the real-life Winnie Mandela to be consulted, who was insulted by the biopic, according to EW, since she was not interviewed or asked to give any feedback before it released. Her issues, however, were not with J-Hud playing this role.

Her role in the murder of alleged traitor Stompie Seipei may leave mixed feelings about Winnie Mandela's decisions, but the end of the film also does not make light of the torture she was under before working with the relentless Mandela United Football Club.

The film didn't try to excuse nor hide her role, only left viewers discussing what actually happened even when Winnie Mandela's apology to Stompie's family was documented.

Of course viewers who have followed the Mandela story know they divorced two years after he was released. But the 1 hour 44 minute movie ended just giving the job synopsis without viewers actually seeing the work the two did together* later on. By the time the Stompie trial came around and Winnie sat pondering on what to say about Stompie being brutally killed and found days later in a field, it seemed like an afterthought to consider what Winnie Mandela's later contributions were.

Overall the film detailed more of her triumphs than it questioned her flaws. She may be insulted about not giving consent for the 2011 movie to be released, but the film gave a much-needed look into Nelson Mandela's other half who went through the trenches with him.

* Nelson Mandela was later president for five years and appointed Winnie as Deputy Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology. She continued her work as the President of the ANC Women's League for 10 years and became a member of the ANC's National Executive Committee.

Shamontiel is also The Wire Examiner, and for the gladiators, she's the Scandal Examiner, too.

Follow Shamontiel on Pinterest for all of her latest TV, book, music and movie reviews; photo galleries; entertainment saving tips and other entries, or subscribe to her National African American Entertainment channel at the top of this page. Also, follow her @BlackHealthNews, and follow this Pinterest board to read her celebrity interviews.


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