Confession: I didn’t get a chance to see Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom before taking my students.
Confession #2: My kids wouldn’t have gone to see it either if I didn’t bring them myself.
Here’s the thing about auto-bio pics that people don’t want to say, but will readily admit: if our youth don’t get a sense of why something or someone is important, they won’t pay attention to it.
Even before Mandela’s passing, I was excited to hear Idris Elba play Mandela, if only because we sanitize the image of civil rights leaders all the time, and we ought not to. If anything, we should find ways to make those “miracles” more concrete for the people. It’s important for all of us to understand people as multi-dimensional, even the people many of us have proclaimed as heroes. The stains and dents make the statues more real.
Just as I started planning for the trip, he passed. For better or worse, the news on him turned on a switch for my kids. “The guy who Mr. Vilson just talked about” became “the famous guy who passed away and was on the news last night.”
Without a movie like Mandela, I have a harder time helping students visualize his importance. Fortunately for us, we won a free trip to go courtesy of Share My Lesson (check out these lessons too), the AFT, and the Weinstein Company, and so I took all the students I could on the trip. They had no idea what the movie was save for the few who had already done some research beforehand.
After coming out of the movie, most of them started making connections to the readings in their classes, specifically To Kill A Mockingbird. Yet, my draw to the movie wasn’t necessarily academic reasons. It’s to help plant the seed in students that might spark a thought. The movie does a good job of laying out his legacy in such a way that doesn’t pretend sainthood, yet asks us to look at the mountain of a man for all his flaws.
Most of my kids thought it was good, and appreciated being taken to see it. Someone had to. Rather, I had to.