“From the very first meeting with Justin it was clear that he wanted to approach the epic story of Nelson Mandela’s life with a very fresh, visceral and original stylistic approach,” says cinematographer, Lol Crawley.
“Citing the films of Fernando Meirelles, Matteo Garrone and Jacques Audiard as important influences, we looked at the hand held style and naturalistic lighting used in ‘City of God’, ‘Gomorrah’ and ‘A Prophet’ and compared them to the more classical cinematic grammar of films such as ‘Gandhi’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. We felt that we needed to explore and celebrate the ‘epic’ inherent in the life of Mandela but also to refrain from putting him on a pedestal. We felt that the earlier part of the story, Mandela’s childhood in the Transkei, lent itself to calmer, more considered, classical camerawork which would play in stark contrast to the increasingly visceral and raw camera movements depicting Mandela’s life from his arrival in 1940s Jo’burg through to the Rivonia trial.
Where possible we felt it important to shoot on location where the events actually occurred in order to achieve the maximum level of authenticity.
Obviously one of the biggest choices facing filmmakers is whether to shoot on film or digital but for this project there was never any doubt that film would be the preferred medium. There is an inherent alchemy to be explored in the weeks leading up to the start of principal photography in which different makes and ages of lenses are tested in combination with a myriad of different stocks and post production techniques. How these choices render the different landscapes, time periods of the story, costume and set design is a crucial part of the creative process.