Tag Archives: Matt Damon

Invictus (Clint Eastwood, 2009)

by Guest Contributor Geo, originally published at Prometheus Brown


Morgan Freeman: the kind of black dude even an old white racist can’t hate. Which is why he was cast to drive Miss Daisy, free a man from prison, become president (twice), help Batman, and become the literal, physical embodiment of God. Apparently has magic in his melanin.

Matt Damon: the kind of white guy maybe a Panther can love. Plays the peckerwood douchebag role convincingly while managing to assure us he’s a real compassionate, progressive guy offscreen.

Clint Eastwood: the guy who brought Dirty Harry out of retirement last year in Gran Torino and killed him once and for all. One of maybe two or three big Hollywood directors (Martin Scorsese is the other) with a 1970’s movie style that still manages to work.

South Africa: A country with social and political contradictions similar to America but far away enough to not have to think about it if you don’t want to. And close enough, unlike an imaginary planet in the future, to feel empathy for. Once upon a time used to dominate the World News section of the nightly news.

Invictus (2009): the film directed by Eastwood and starring Freeman as Nelson Mandela and Damon as a rugby player. Opens with a 40-minute set-up story of Mandela’s election and transition to President of South Africa. Obama/Mandela parallels everywhere. Although Mandela is played like a funny-accented black Confucius, the racial tension and political drama make for entertaining historical fluff. Along comes a whole ‘nother story about the South African rugby team, which Mandela recruits to unite the country by winning the World Cup. Like Eastwood recruiting a tiring formula to add some action to a political biopic.

Because a movie about Mandela himself, particularly the parts of his life we haven’t seen on TV before, is worthy of its own two hours. And so is the rugby team’s story, which would’ve probably made yet another one of those decent inspirational sports stories. The ones that do an awesome job of convincing us that sports is a matter of life and death.

Sometimes, we’re convinced. But when it’s tasked with something like, say, healing the wounds of Apartheid, it’s a cinematic gamble that loses. Not to mention the audacity of the American movie industry to make a movie about another country’s history in its own image, or the way we eat it up like that’s not some seriously fucked up shit. Plus, we all know Mandela had a much thicker accent than that.

Quotable: More on South Africa and Film

By Special Correspondent Arturo R. García
Hudsonmandela1

In reading the discussion about Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela, it’s interesting to note that South African actors have been protesting the casting of Jennifer Hudson in the title role of a biopic on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

“This decision must be reversed. It must be stopped now,” Oupa Lebogo, the union’s secretary-general, told The [UK] Times. The story also quoted a friend of Madikizela-Mandela’s, Udo Froese, as saying,: “There’s a lot of good local talent, why not use them? Winnie herself is not involved in this, and in no way has given any sort of green light.”

At a Dec. 5 press conference, actor John Kani and the Creative Workers Union of South Africa called for tighter regulations on foreign projects, and said the issue wasn’t Hudson personally, but a bigger problem:

“Every time there is a movie that tells a South African story, it is done by someone who must be taught the right way of pronouncing Sawubona. Enough it enough.”

He said if local actors were to be included in such films, they had to be given serious roles to play.

ANC Women’s League deputy president Nosipho Dorothy Ntwanambi said as a struggle veteran, she knew and understood why South African stories had to be portrayed by people who lived and knew them.

“One can’t read a book about our history and claim to know our way of living,” she said.

The Associated Press ran a story Monday quoting two more union officials upset with Hudson’s casting.

“It can’t happen that we want to develop our own Hollywood and yet bring in imports,” the union’s president Mabutho Sithole said in The Citizen newspaper.

“This decision must be reversed, it must be stopped now,” union secretary general Oupa Lebogo said in The Times. “If the matter doesn’t come up for discussion, we will push for a moratorium to be placed on the film.”

The Times also noted that both the film’s source material (the book Winnie Mandela: My Life) and director (Darrell J. Roodt) are local.

Another South African publication, the Daily Maverick, is concerned less about Morgan Freeman playing Nelson Mandela in Invictus – which, the Huffington Post says, features an almost completely South African cast – than , but about how it holds up as a rugby film:

Can Graham Lindemann really demonstrate the awesomeness of Kobus’s arrival at a ruck? Can Rolf Fitschen throw a lineout ball as straight as Naka?

The answer, of course, is no. And because the answer is no, there’s likely to be much sniggering when the film gets released here this month. In fact, the sniggering has been gathering momentum for a while already – honestly, what was your first reaction when you heard that Matt Damon was cast as Francois Pienaar? Did you tell your mates that the guy was born for the role?

Why are Black Americans Playing Roles Meant for Africans?

by Special Correspondent Nadra Kareem

“Invictus,” a film about Nelson Mandela’s efforts to unify post-apartheid South Africa through rugby, opens Dec. 11. The film stars Matt Damon as captain of South Africa’s 1995 rugby team and Morgan Freeman as Mandela.

I’ve little interest in seeing this film, but the commercials for it caught my attention when I noticed someone attempting what I considered to be an atrocious South African accent. That someone was Freeman, an amazing actor, no doubt, but not convincing to me as a South African. A quick trip to the IMDB.com thread on the film, and I realized I wasn’t alone in my criticism of Freeman.

A thread devoted specifically to Freeman’s accent in the film began:

“HOLY CRAP…. Morgan’s accent sucks!! Not even close…. did he even try? Didnt hear to much of Matt but wow Morgan really missed the boat.”

And another poster followed up, “I came here to say the exact same thing after having just seen the commercial. Holy horrible. It sounds like Morgan Freeman in every movie he’s ever been in plus a hokey accent that couldn’t possibly be attributed to any ethnicity or area.”

After pondering how Freeman speaks in the film, I wondered why a South African wasn’t cast in “Invictus.” With Clint Eastwood as director and Damon in a starring role, would it have been that much of a gamble to cast an unknown in the role of Mandela? Then, I thought about other films set in Africa—“Hotel Rwanda,” “Cry Freedom,” “The Last King of Scotland” and “Sarafina!” All feature black Americans in starring roles as Africans. A recent exception would be 2006’s “Blood Diamond” in which Djimon Hounsou has a starring role.

I understand that casting African American film stars likely makes movies about Africa more marketable, but would African Americans be as accepting if roles designed for them were given to whites to increase a film’s marketability? Judging from the uproar surrounding Angelina Jolie starring as Mariane Pearl in “A Mighty Heart,” I think not. So why aren’t more people speaking up about the tendency of African roles to go to black Americans?

On IMDB.com, a poster who challenged the assertion that Freeman was born to play Mandela, arguing instead that an “actual South African” be given the role, received this response:

“There isn’t any South African actors that have Freeman’s acting skills though. Just because someone is from a particular country doesn’t make them automatically better for the role.”

I don’t know the ethnicity or nationality of the person who wrote this, but the idea that South Africa has no quality actors is ludicrous. But, say, we take the poster at his word. South Africa having no actors with the chops to play Mandela shouldn’t rule out the possibility of an actor from another African nation playing the role. Nigeria, for one, has a $250 million film industry, which puts it in the Top 3 film industries in the world, along with India and the United States. Clearly, Africa has its share of actors to go around. So, when will Hollywood shine the spotlight on them, and when will black Americans demand it?