With the world mourning the death of South African hero Nelson Mandela, the cynical are pointing to the perfect position the Harvey Weinstein produced film starring Idris ElbaMandela, Long Walk to Freedom is in to score at the box office and lock down several Oscars. Best picture and best actor nominations are a given by even Bono and U2 hope to get a statue at the Academy Awards with their song for the movie, “Ordinary Love“. While many were pointing fingers at former Deadline Hollywood editor turned lone Hollywood sniper Nikki Finke for being the first to publicly point out the improvement to the film’s Oscar chances, it’s impossible to deny it was among the first thoughts among many in the awards obsessed film industry. The Finke gaffe inspired a hilarious run of Twitter jokes with the hashtag #FinkeObits that credit Inglorious Basterd‘s success to Adolf Hitler‘s death among others.

But the film is true of heart and director Justin Chadwick, who started out as an actor in U.K. television, has proven that in interviews — including a recent one with The Hollywood Reporter. For starters, he tried to talk the producer Anant Singh out of doing it at all when it first came up.

But he was convinced, he said, because he thought he could make the film very personal: “The film, as much as it charts Apartheid history, more central to me was the effect on the man and the family and the cost to the family. But centrally it was a story about love and love not just for Winnie and his children and the cost to him and the love of his comrades and the love of his country and the love of freedom but also the forgiveness.”

He says the biggest challenge was working in Africa — especially dealing with the potentially raw feelings of working with extra actors who lived through the real history depicted in the movie:  ”Those riot scenes, they were a challenge because you’ve got 2,000 people who are in the moment and it kicks off. I mean some of those cars were not meant to blow up in those riot scenes. If you ramp people up who are not actors, who are people who have lived through the struggle and they see a load of white policemen in there, there’s going to be a situation that’s created and the struggle is still very present in South Africa.”

He praises Elba, saying he was a huge fan of The Wire: “It takes a brave actor to step into Mandela’s shoes to portray him and particularly the way I was setting it up.”

For coverage of the world’s grief over Nelson Mandela’s death watch the best in news via FilmOn here.

Al Jazeera English language coverage of the South African hero’s death has been particularly strong. Watch it free via FilmOn:

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