frontline: the long walk of nelson mandela

Press Reaction

New York Daily News Eric Mink

"It is two tightly packed, lyrically photographed and smartly edited hours of television. Tonight's Frontline is also, arguably, television's most detailed and comprehensive biography to date of the person who led South Africa out of the darkness of brutality and bigotry into the light of civil and human rights.

... The eyewitnesses include many of those who shared Mandela's 27-year imprisonment, mostly on Robben Island; officials of the white government ... journalists who covered the story; and some of Mandela's long-time friends and associates. The film suffers, however, from the absence of new interview material from either Mandela or his ex-wife, Winnie.

[Producers] Fanning and de Lanerolle have collected some remarkable archival footage, and they've shot some scene-setting vistas that help underscore the stark contradiction between South Africa's glorious natural beauty and the ugliness of the apartheid system that made it a pariah among nations." *** 1/2

The Times-Picayune, New Orleans Mark Lorando

" ...[the program's] willingness to offer multiple, sometimes conflicting perspectives of Mandela helps to convey the complexity of the man, and keeps Frontline from becoming a canonization.

The program's greatest accomplishment...is its eliciting of intimate recollections about Mandela from his former friends, political allies and adversaries. The film has the unique challenge of trying to tell a life story that's missing 27 years of photographs. Since the subject of the film himself is never interviewed, it becomes incumbent on those close to him--either emotionally close or at least in close physical proximity--to illustrate his life.

The good news is [the producers] succeed brilliantly, introducing the masses to Mandela the man rather than the living monument."

Houston Chronicle Ann Hodges

"... Mandela's story has been told many times, in documentaries and drama. But this is, without contest, the definitive TV biography of that remarkable politician, statesman and leader who changed his world. And it's told with the help of many who walked the walk with him. Getting so many eyewitnesses on the record is another Frontline coup.

It comes with top credentials. David Fanning, executive producer of Frontline, produced this one himself. For him, it was a homecoming; he's a native of South Africa. John Carlin, the reporter and interviewer, has covered South Africa's transformation for years as Johannesburg bureau chief for London's The Independent ...

As their fully fleshed portrait shows, Mandela had as many human faults and foibles as any other man, but he saw a future that no one else saw and was willing to risk everything to achieve it. ..."

The Atlanta Constitution Lyle Harris

" ... it's surprising--and disappointing--that PBS' new Frontline documentary is so sluggish, and even worse, so deadly dull.. The title iself is misleading. This tedious, two-hour trip feels more like a marathon meant to test the endurance of even the most devoted Mandela watchers.

...There are some rarely seen glimpses of him as a young revolutionary and even rarer footage of him giving journalists an icy,. thousand-yard stare during his imprisonment. But it lacks fresh interviews with the leader, so we don't hear him tell his own story in the twilight of his career.

Sure it's informative in the soberly text-bookish way that PBS documentaries can be. There are enough human details here to keep us interested, if not riveted.

... Yet there is little evidence here of the intense passions that drove Mandela, and no palpable sense of how his unwavering self-sacrifice have helped transform and heal his once-divided nation."

The Boston Globe Cate McQuaid

"... 'The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela,' celebrates Mandela's life as the stuff of myth. His journey, after all, is a great story to tell. At the same time, the documentary, packed with interviews with colleagues and enemies, attempts to fill in the grayer areas of Mandela the man.

... Mandela's story is a great one that speaks to the triumph of wisdom, personal strength, and the human spirit. "The Long Walk of Nelson Mandela" doesn't attempt to sully that tale. We need stories like this one. These days, they are few and far between."

The New York Times Walter Goodman

"The title 'legend' is generously handed around these days, used especially in television as a synonym for the hour's celebrity. So to call Nelson Mandela a legend is an inadequate tribute. Careful though he is of his image, he also guards his privacy and is too aloof to pander to the tabloids. Even many who acclaim him as an authentic hero of our time know little about him other than that he was held as a prisoner of apartheid for almost three decades....

... tonight's two-hour offering from Frontline digs into his character,. particularly as revealed by his behavior on Robben Island during his imprisonment. His warders and his comrades agree on the commanding position that he assumed despite being cut off from the struggle that was taking place in South Africa's black townships. ..."

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