Upon hearing that Jennifer Hudson, an American, was chosen to portray one of their most prominent and captivating figures, Winnie Madizki-Mandela, the the Creative Workers Union of South Africa lambasted Hollywood for undermining South Africa’s efforts to develop their own film industry. Hailed by many as the ‘mother of the nation’, Winnie Mandela’s life as an activist against the apartheid regime and former wife of Nelson Mandela, has been one of public interest for years. While some have described her as ‘a corrupt and violent adulteress’ others have praised her for her heroism and activism.
When word came that there was a film being produced about her life, Winnie Mandela logically thought that she would at least be consulted about a movie depicting her life. How could they produce a movie about her while she is still alive and not consult her? To make matter worse, the film makers announced that American actress Jennifer Hudson was chosen for the role. Upon hearing the news, Mandela made her objections about the fact that she was not consulted clear. She explained, “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.” Mandela’s latter statement surrounds the fact that the movie producers have described the movie as “the ultimate woman’s story” and “an amazing love story.”
Despite her anger, Winnie Mandela squashed rumors that she was upset at Jennifer Hudson for accepting the role. “I have absolutely nothing against Jennifer, but I have everything against the movie itself,” Winnie told the press. Jennifer Hudson also came under fire for not taking the initiative to meet the woman she would have to embody. However, she also felt the need to clear the air by explaining through a rep that she has not been able to meet Winnie Mandela, not because she does not want to but because he producers advised against the two meeting because they wanted to uphold the integrity of the book, Winnie Mandela: A Life, the book the film is based on.
Imaging being alive, having endured and fought against one of the most inhumane struggles in modern history, a film is produced depicting your struggle and you are not consulted. Hollywood is infamous for using foreign actors/actresses to play the roles of people native to a particular country, therefore, I think that Winnie Mandela is right not to habour any ill feelings towards Jennifer Hudson. However, for her not to be consulted about a movie that ostensibly depicts her life is hurtful and can be construed as being disrespectful. While it is understandable that the film, title Winnie, is based on a book and that the directors want to stay as close to the depictions in the book as much as possible, they should have at least shown common courtesy by consulting the inspiration behind their depiction.