Johannesburg: Nearly two decades in the making, the USD 33 million Nelson Mandela biopic `Mandela ? The Long Walk to Freedom` premiered in Johannesburg at a gala event hosted by internationally-renowned Indian-South African producer Anant Singh.
Anant`s dream project is based on the autobiography of the same name by the iconic former president of South Africa, who won the first democratic elections in 1994 after 27 years of imprisonment by the white minority apartheid government.
Mandela is portrayed in the film by British actor Idries Elba, who said it had been a huge challenge to play the icon.
"It is a portrayal of the book that is as close as possible to what is in the book, and for that we must congratulate Justin (Chadwick, the director) and all his colleagues," Mandela`s lifelong friend and fellow prisoner on Robben Island, Ahmed Kathrada, said at the Sunday premiere.
Commenting on the shooting of the film, Kathrada said it was "so genuine."
"One day I went straight from Robben Island to the studio and what I saw there; I thought I hadn`t left Robben Island. It was so beautifully done; so detailed.?They had tried to portray as much detail as possible.?There was also the Palace of Justice where we were sentenced (in the Rivonia Treason Trial of 1963) also very, very well done."
To prove his point, Kathrada showed a large key of a cell recreated on the set which he had brought away with him as a memento, describing it as being as authentic as the original.
Well-known Indian South African comedian Riaad Moosa played Kathrada?in the movie.
"I spent a lot of time reading about him and watching every bit of video about him. I understood true humility; true sacrifice.
"The point of resonance for me was that Kathy was one of the youngest people when he went to Robben Island.?I was 35 when I started shooting the film last year and Kathy was 35 when he was sent to prison. I was a few days older, but Kathy was released when he was 60, a whole life gone yet he came out such an amazingly gentle, humble man. It was life-changing."
The premiere in Johannesburg was attended by the cream of political and social society, including Madiba`s former wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. She lauded actress Naomie Harris for the way in which she had portrayed Winnie`s life with Mandela on screen.
There was also a congratulatory video message from President Jacob Zuma.
The film will release worldwide at the end of November.