Best Political Film
Deaglán de Bréadún
The issue of nation-building is an important one for any society seeking to overcome major problems such as racial division, economic collapse, class differences, etc., etc.We are on this earth for only a short time and must work together if we are to cope with the difficulties that face us.
Perhaps Ireland is not an example of remarkable social solidarity at the moment but such cohesion as exists may help us meet our current economic and social challenges.
The problem of creating a single “Rainbow Nation” out of the warring blacks and whites of South Africa was a problem that confronted Nelson Mandela when he was elected president in the first democratic vote in 1994.
One of the means he chose was to unite blacks and whites in support of the Springboks, the South African rugby team. As a young fella I joined in the huge protest against a visit by the then-all-white team to Dublin in 1970.
As Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus points out, black South Africans would actually cheer for other countries who were playing against the Springboks, who were seen as symbols of white supremacy and apartheid.
Eastwood’s approach to race relations in Gran Torino gave rise to a lively discussion on the blog last year. I think few could complain about Invictus in this regard (I may be wrong!)
I watched the film in Belfast last night. On my way out, I realised it had been two and a half hours long. The cinema was pretty full and no doubt there was fair mix of Catholics and Protestants, many of them rugby-fans.
I wonder did any of them draw any lessons from the film for Northern Ireland which is at yet another crossroads in the relationship between the two communities?
Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Mandela is remarkable: an Oscar-winner, if there is any justice in the world. Full marks also to Matt Damon in the role of the South African rugby captain, leading his team into the World Cup. Go and see Invictus and tell me what you think. Has there been a better political film in recent years?
Incidentally, the W.E. Henley poem, “Invictus”, which inspired Mandela during his lengthy stay in prison, was also a favourite of the executed Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh – one of the Irish-Americans we don’t talk about much, for obvious reasons. Apparently Gordon Brown likes it too. Here are the words:
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance,
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishment the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.