Mandela Jo Menell and Angus Gibson

From the grass houses and tribal culture of South Africa’s high plains to the harrowing island prison cell where he laboured for 27 years in captivity before being released and elected the country’s first black president in a culture where "whites ruled, blacks served,” Mandela paints the captivating story of one the world’s most revered and beloved leaders. Balanced between a sit-down interview and live news clips showing the unmeasured violence that characterised the struggle to erase apartheid, Mandela recalls his life story and brings to light many personal details of his up-bringing that includes his traditional circumcision with a spear at 17 years of age. This, as do many of his stories interwoven throughout the film, paints a picture of the social fabric of South Africa for the past 80 years. Particularly eye-opening, and often not acknowledged because of the isolation of the country, is the overriding fact that South Africa officially ended apartheid in only 1994 when Mandela became president. The country’s official defence for pro-apartheid beforehand, which was used to justify the slaughter of blacks, is explained simply by the South African Foreign Affairs Minister as "a policy of good neighbors.” Receiving an Academy Award nod for best documentary in 1997, this definitive biography of Mandela has been a long-time coming, but the wait is well worth the deluxe package, which includes a full-CD soundtrack that dives into the rich local jazz scene, a beautiful 48-page book that provides a historic overview and a National Geographic historic wall-map. (Palm Pictures)