NEW YORK -- With the passing of Nelson Mandela, the sweeping biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom transforms in the midst of its theatrical release from a living tribute to a big-screen eulogy.
The South African revolutionary and former president has long been a compelling figure for movies -- a hero of uncommon dignity whose dramatic story and titanic accomplishments insured his tale would be told often.
But arguably the fullest movie portrait of Mandela's life -- a film made with his permission and his family's support -- was released just six days before his death.
News of Mandela's death broke as the film played during its London premiere, where Mandela's daughters Zindzi and Zenani were in attendance. A spokesman with the film said the daughters requested that the film continue, though they immediately left the theatre. Producer Anant Singh, who has spent more than a decade trying to get the film made, called for a moment of silence at the end.
When the film opens wide on Christmas, it's sure to draw larger crowds moved to remember Mandela. The Weinstein Co.'s challenge is to not appear to be capitalizing on Mandela's passing, but celebrating his life.
"One of the privileges of making movies is having the opportunity to immortalize those who have made a profound impact on humanity," co-chairman Harvey Weinstein said in a statement.
"We count ourselves unspeakably fortunate to have been immersed in Nelson Mandela's story and legacy. It's been an honour to have been granted such proximity to a man who will go down as one of history's greatest freedom fighters and advocates for justice."
-- The Associated Press