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The Color of Freedom

29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Joseph Fiennes (Running with Scissors, Shakespeare in Love) and Dennis Haysbert (TV's 24) star in the incredible true story of the deep bond that develops between political prisoner Nelson Mandela and James Gregory, the racist white South African who was Mandela's prison guard for more than 20 years. Based on Gregory's controversial memoir, Goodbye Bafana, The Color Of Freedom powerfully chronicles the life-changing journey both men experience during Mandela's imprisonment - as one man confronts the racism he has always known, the other's struggle for freedom makes him a worldwide symbol of South Africa's heroic fight for democracy.

Inspired by James Gregory's memoir, Goodbye Bafana, The Color of Freedom offers an inside look at the 27-year incarceration of future South African President Nelson Mandela (24's Dennis Haysbert). Apartheid-friendly guard Gregory (Shakespeare in Love's Joseph Fiennes), social-climbing spouse Gloria (National Treasure's Diane Kruger), and their two children move to Robben Island, home of the infamous political prison, in 1968. Because he speaks Xhosa, Gregory’s superior charges the warder with censoring correspondence and supervising visits between the African National Congress (ANC) leader and his wife, Winnie (Faith Ndukwana). As it transpires, the guard had a black childhood friend named Bafana, and his relationship with Mandela rekindles Gregory’s long-lost belief in racial equality. Directed by Denmark's Bille August (The Best Intentions), The Color of Freedom captures the natural beauty of South Africa and the unnatural fashions of yesteryear (including Kruger's '60s-era foundation garments). The actors also give it their all, particularly Fiennes, who nails the Afrikaner dialect, but predictability and underdeveloped personalities dilute the drama (it's also worth noting that Mandela hasn't corroborated the facts in Gregory's book, contributing to its controversial reputation). The six-foot-four Haysbert's dissimilarity to the Nobel Peace Prize winner also proves distracting. Like Blood Diamond and other recent motion pictures concerning African history, August's effort means well, but fails to register as more than a made-for-TV movie with superior production values. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Joseph Fiennes, Dennis Haysbert, Diane Kruger, Patrick Lyster, Shiloh Henderson
  • Directors: Bille August
  • Writers: Bille August, Bob Graham, Greg Latter, James Gregory
  • Producers: Alison Ellard, Andro Steinborn, Carola Ash
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Enhanced, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: Image Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 20, 2008
  • Run Time: 118 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0014Z4OL6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #96,800 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Color of Freedom" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on August 29, 2008
Format: DVD
"The Color of Freedom" (also known as "Goodbye Bafana") is based on the memoirs of James Gregory, South African prison guard and censor officer, who died in 2003. The name of the book is "Goodbye Bafana: Nelson Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend," and you may think the book title tells all you have to know. In fact, the truth is a bit different in the film directed by Bille August ("Pelle the Conqueror"). (And I know the controversy over the original book, but I will not talk about it here.)

Though August's film is inspired by the life of a man who guarded one of the most important political figures of our time, the story of "The Color of Freedom" is not exactly about Nelson Mandela (played by Dennis Haysbert). It is more about James Gregory himself and his family - his wife (Diane Kruger) and their children - and the spiritual transformation James goes through. The story is told against the background of modern South African history, but its perspective is always that of James Gregory.

"The Color of Freedom" can be seen as a portrait of a man caught between his ideal and reality, or family and establishment. Superior officers don't like the idea of a warden talking friendly with the prisoners, much less reading Freedom Charter in secret. While watching the film, I thought his friendship with Nelson Mandela could easily jeopardize James's position and James would have to pay the price of his spiritual freedom, but ... well, I cannot disclose the plot, which I think is not very dramatic. But you may find it differently.

Dennis Haysber is surprisingly good as Nelson Mandela and Joseph Fiennes did a great job, actually his career-best acting, as the protagonist.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 12, 2008
Format: DVD
While many books and films about South Africa's Apartheid have attempted to convey the tension and the eventual dissolution of that sociopolitical scheme, few histories bring us as close to the core of the schism as does Bille August's excellent film THE COLOR OF FREEDOM. Based on the book GOODBYE BAFANA by James Gregory (with Bob Graham) the story details the relationship between Nelson Mandela and prison warden James Gregory during Mandela's long imprisonment on Robben Island off the coast of South Africa, and the gradual friendship that occurred between these disparate men. Studying this development of a friendship provides an opportunity to better understand the concept of Apartheid and of the evils of racism in general.

Nelson Mandela (Dennis Haysbert) was convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment on the desolate Robben Island for his non-violent attempts to end racism in South Africa, attempts that eventually resulted in work stoppages and resistance movements that moved the articulate, well-educated lawyer Mandela into the realm of activism. While on Robben Island he was guarded by one James Gregory (Joseph Fiennes), a pro-apartheid, cruel prison employee who was assigned to Mandela as a spy and censor because of Gregory's knowledge of the local language Xhosa (learned from his childhood when his best friend was a black boy named Bafana). Gregory lives on the island with this wife (Diane Kruger) and children and his commitment to his family provides a stark contrast to his hatred of his black 'Kaffir' prisoners: his involvement with the pro-apartheid status is strengthened by his direct communication with Intelligence in the cities of South Africa where his censored information from the prisoners leads to definitive capture and 'disposal' of the blacks.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Carole D on August 6, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
From my previous study of the life of Mandela, I found this film to be factual and accurate. This should be required viewing in middle school history classes.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Loves To Read on February 28, 2009
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Based on the true story of James Gregory's life as a prison guard in the South African prison system. Because he speaks the language of Mandela, he is assigned to Robben Island where Mandela has been a political prisoner for 10 years already in 1968. Gregory's assignment is to monitor Mandela's mail and visitors and report any important information to his superiors. Initially, a racist in his views like other South Africans, Gregory slowly begins to see the human side of Mandela, especially when Mandela's son is killed in a car accident (murder), which may have been set up because of information Gregory provided his superiors. It's a fascinating story and a very well done movie. The acting and the script are top notch. It reminds me of the words of U.S. Olympic Champion Jesse Owens: "Let's go for a walk. If we walk long enough and talk long enough, we may begin to understand each other." That's what Gregory and Mandela did for almost 20 years. Forgiveness and reconciliation are possible. This story proves it. As relevant today as it was twenty years ago. Enjoy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Bainter on December 21, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This is a must see so every generation can see just how bad humans can be. Most of of think, "not in our time" but this was in our time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Morten Lokkegaard on December 15, 2008
Format: DVD
Bille August is a well respected instructor with quite an accomplished resume that includes the Oscar winning Pelle The Conquerer, The House of Spirits, Smilla's Sense for Snow to mention a few.

He has over the years taken on quite significant projects often being asked to put highly acclaimed literature to the screen and in doing so struggled to find a balance allowing both commercial success and critical acclaim. I am not privy to whether this movie succeeded in either department which in fact is a relief as it enables one to give a less subjective review.

The movie depicts the growing relationship between a common white prison guard and the politically imprisoned Nelson and Mandela. The movie claims to be based on a real story and while it is not for me judge exactly how accurately portrayed it is or how many facts were truly available to build it on it indeed was more than a pleasant watch.

The story covers more than 30 years of South African and World history and shows the personal transformation the guard goes through from being a one-sided racist to a more complex character as history unfolds. While I by no means will claim to be a capacity on the apartheid regimes eventual fall I assume that the journey he and his wife goes through is reminiscent of many white South Africans in the period.

The movie depicts quite graphically the horrible doings of the apartheid regime but also render the viewer hope for a better tomorrow and shows that over time reason and justice will prevail and that human nature does have it within itself to overcome even the biggest hurdles.

For me this was both an informative and entertaining movie that does not leave the audience after it is over.
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