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The Color of Freedom
The Color of Freedom
Actors: Dennis Haysbert, Diane Kruger
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
R     2008     2hr 20min

Joseph Fiennes (Running with Scissors, Shakespeare in Love) and Dennis Haysbert (TV's 24) star in the incredible true story of the deep bond that develops between political prisoner Nelson Mandela and James Gregory, the ra...  more »

     

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Movie Details

Actors: Dennis Haysbert, Diane Kruger
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama
Studio: Image Entertainment
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Enhanced
DVD Release Date: 05/20/2008
Original Release Date: 01/01/2007
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2007
Release Year: 2008
Run Time: 2hr 20min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Enhanced
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 0
MPAA Rating: R (Restricted)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

A Friendship Defined
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/12/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)

"While many books and films about South Africa's Apartheid have attempted to convey the tension and the eventual dissolution of that sociopolitical scheme, few histories bring us as close to the core of the schism as does Bille August's excellent film THE COLOR OF FREEDOM. Based on the book GOODBYE BAFANA by James Gregory (with Bob Graham) the story details the relationship between Nelson Mandela and prison warden James Gregory during Mandela's long imprisonment on Robben Island off the coast of South Africa, and the gradual friendship that occurred between these disparate men. Studying this development of a friendship provides an opportunity to better understand the concept of Apartheid and of the evils of racism in general.

Nelson Mandela (Dennis Haysbert) was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on the desolate Robben Island for his non-violent attempts to end racism in South Africa, attempts that eventually resulted in work stoppages and resistance movements that moved the articulate, well-educated lawyer Mandela into the realm of activism. While on Robben Island he was guarded by one James Gregory (Joseph Fiennes), a pro-apartheid, cruel prison employee who was assigned to Mandela as a spy and censor because of Gregory's knowledge of the local language Xhosa (learned from his childhood when his best friend was a black boy named Bafana). Gregory lives on the island with this wife (Diane Kruger) and children and his commitment to his family provides a stark contrast to his hatred of his black 'Kaffir' prisoners: his involvement with the pro-apartheid status is strengthened by his direct communication with Intelligence in the cities of South Africa where his censored information from the prisoners leads to definitive capture and 'disposal' of the blacks. On a trip ashore Gregory and his wife and children witness first hand the beatings and cruelties of the whites against the blacks and Gregory returns to his duties on Robben Island with a gradually changing point of view for the model prisoner Mandela. They begin communicating in Xhosa and Gregory allows Mandela's wife Winnie (Faith Ndukwana) to spend more committed time with her husband on her restricted visits to Robben island. One particular misstep - Gregory passes Mandela's Christmas gift of a piece of chocolate to Winnie - threatens Gregory's status on the island, while at the same time bonding Mandela and Gregory like brothers. Gregory's life and philosophy have been changed by Mandela's powerful personality and spirit and his eventual release from prison into the new, freed South Africa has been aided in a small but meaningful way by Gregory - a reflection of Gregory's childhood bond with his friend Bafana.

August captures the tension and the atmosphere of South Africa in this visually stunning film. Fiennes is superb as James Gregory as is Diane Kruger as his wife. Dennis Haysbert conveys the spiritual essence of Mandela despite the fact that his physical appearance is not at all like the Mandela known so well from the still constant photographs of the diminutive freedom fighter we see frequently. But the film does convey the tenor of the changing times during the 27-year confinement of Nelson Mandela. The featurettes on the DVD offer lengthy history lessons about the real events referenced in the film and add immeasurably to the film's overall success. There is much to learn from this film in addition to the fact that it is a solid work of cinematic artistry. Grady Harp, July 08"
Well-Intentioned But Lacks Dramatic Momentum
Tsuyoshi | Kyoto, Japan | 08/29/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)

""The Color of Freedom" (also known as "Goodbye Bafana") is based on the memoirs of James Gregory, South African prison guard and censor officer, who died in 2003. The name of the book is "Goodbye Bafana: Nelson Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend," and you may think the book title tells all you have to know. In fact, the truth is a bit different in the film directed by Bille August ("Pelle the Conqueror"). (And I know the controversy over the original book, but I will not talk about it here.)

Though August's film is inspired by the life of a man who guarded one of the most important political figures of our time, the story of "The Color of Freedom" is not exactly about Nelson Mandela (played by Dennis Haysbert). It is more about James Gregory himself and his family - his wife (Diane Kruger) and their children - and the spiritual transformation James goes through. The story is told against the background of modern South African history, but its perspective is always that of James Gregory.

"The Color of Freedom" can be seen as a portrait of a man caught between his ideal and reality, or family and establishment. Superior officers don't like the idea of a warden talking friendly with the prisoners, much less reading Freedom Charter in secret. While watching the film, I thought his friendship with Nelson Mandela could easily jeopardize James's position and James would have to pay the price of his spiritual freedom, but ... well, I cannot disclose the plot, which I think is not very dramatic. But you may find it differently.

Dennis Haysber is surprisingly good as Nelson Mandela and Joseph Fiennes did a great job, actually his career-best acting, as the protagonist. The locations of South Africa provide beautiful sceneries and the credible backdrop for the story, but the characters of James Gregory and Nelson Mandela need to be fleshed out more, especially the latter. To understand the changes that happened in James, we have to know more about Nelson Mandela and his personality, but the script lacks information and insight, which could have made the film much better."
IF WE WALK LONG ENOUGH & TALK LONG ENOUGH....
Loves To Read | Twin Cities, MN USA | 03/01/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Based on the true story of James Gregory's life as a prison guard in the South African prison system. Because he speaks the language of Mandela, he is assigned to Robben Island where Mandela has been a political prisoner for 10 years already in 1968. Gregory's assignment is to monitor Mandela's mail and visitors and report any important information to his superiors. Initially, a racist in his views like other South Africans, Gregory slowly begins to see the human side of Mandela, especially when Mandela's son is killed in a car accident (murder), which may have been set up because of information Gregory provided his superiors. It's a fascinating story and a very well done movie. The acting and the script are top notch. It reminds me of the words of U.S. Olympic Champion Jesse Owens: "Let's go for a walk. If we walk long enough and talk long enough, we may begin to understand each other." That's what Gregory and Mandela did for almost 20 years. Forgiveness and reconciliation are possible. This story proves it. As relevant today as it was twenty years ago. Enjoy."
Reaching out for humanity in all of us
Reader | Boca Raton, FL | 04/16/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"It is normally believed that if a prisoner starts accepting ideas and principles of his captors (think Patty Hearst) they suffer from Stockholm syndrom. But what happens when a prison guard starts to see truth in the words and actions of his prisoner?

"Color Of Freedom" is a story of two men Mendella and his prison guard Gregory. Gregory earns his job by virtue of knowing african language used in South Africa. He uses that to censor Mendella's mail and monitor conversations during visits from Mendella's family. While Mendella spends 27 years in prison fighting for the equality of South Africa's blacks, Gregory simply wants to earn means for his family, he has no high ideals. That does not diminish is his genuine humanity. By being part of the system he gets to see what is happening between blacks and whites in his country firsthand. His decency forces him to open his mind to what Mendella is truly trying to change in South Africa. Slowly, Gregory and Mendella establish bond through their personal tragedies and political changes in the word that force South African leaders to eventually free Nelson Mendella from political prison.

How much of the story is true will be known only between these two men. All we as viewers have to do is accept well meant intentions of the message of the movie. That we are all human with our basic emotions, needs and desires. It takes time to attain our ideals, purpose or subdue the emotional (invisible) pains of our souls. Freedom has no color - it just is."