Madiba

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Madiba TV Poster Image
Powerful, profound series about the life of Nelson Mandela.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Anti-racism, leadership, peaceful resistance, sacrificing for what you believe in, pro-education. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Mandela isn't perfect, but is a leader, peace maker, and political activist against racial injustice. 

Violence

Beatings, riots, shootings, imprisonment; blood, injuries occasionally shown. 

Sex

References to getting married, having children. Circumcision ceremony (cutting not shown). 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Pipe smoking, drinking sometimes visible. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Madiba is a docudrama about the life of anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela. There are many difficult moments, but they're presented in a historical context. Violent scenes include threats, beatings, shootings (including bullets piercing bodies), and other events, but most refrain from showing a lot of blood. A circumcision ceremony is featured (but the cutting not shown), and pipe smoking and drinking is sometimes visible. 

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What's the story?

MADIBA is a television miniseries about the life of the late South African president and anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela. After the death of his father at a young age, young Rolihlahla is sent away to receive an education. From this point on, he begins his journey towards becoming Nelson Mandela (Laurence Fishburne), a man who is committed to fight the injustices against black South Africans. From trying to unite black Africans who have different views about how to pursue the cause, to serving a total of 27 years in prison for treason, the series chronicles Mandela’s commitment to peacefully dismantling the institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination instituted by the white South African government since 1948, and practiced socially in the country for generations. Joining him in his crusade are friends like Oliver Tambo (Orlando Jones) and Ahmed Kathrada (Merry Reddy), and fellow activists including Govan Mbeki (Hlomla Dandala), Joe Slovo (Jason Kennett), and Ruth First (Kat Liquorish). Also supporting him during this journey is wife and activist Winnie Mandela (Terry Pheto). As the often ruthless white nationalist government does everything it can to preserve race laws and maintain their way of life, Mandela struggles and sacrifices, but never submits. 

Is it any good?

Based on two of Nelson Mandela’s autobiographies, this powerful docudrama offers insights about the late South African president's personal commitment to fighting injustice, and the many struggles he endured as a result. Mandela, (often affectionately referred to "Madiba" or "father” by South Africans), is portrayed as a passionate figure committed to the anti-apartheid movement, but one who was willing to put the cause in front of his family and friends. Furthermore, the series reveals the racially diverse group of people also committed to the movement, including white South African activists like Joe Slovo and Ruth First, and Ahmed Kathrada, who is South African Indian. 

Those who have limited knowledge of the the anti-apartheid movement may find it a little harder to follow some of the discussions pertaining to the complicated politics of the time, including the tensions between the African National Congress and more violent factions. The intricate restructuring and racial diversification of the government once apartheid ends may also feel a little dense. Regardless, Madiba offers a profound viewing experience, and no doubt that those who tune in will be inspired. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the anti-apartheid movement. Apartheid, or institutionalized racism, existed in South Africa until the 1980s. Why were black South Africans treated so differently from white South Africans? Why did this system last so long? In addition to Nelson Mandela’s work, what other things happened in the country that also contributed to the end of apartheid? 

  • What is a docudrama? Madiba’s dramatic portrayal of Nelson Mandela’s life and work accurate? Since it’s not a pure documentary, does it have to be? 

TV details

For kids who love drama

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