Why hold a Washington, D.C. screening for your new film at any local theater when you can book the Kennedy Center? The question was clearly a no-brainer for producer and noted political fundraiser Harvey Weinstein concerning his company’s new release, “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.”
Two weeks after an intimate White House unspooling of the biopic for President Obama and First Lady Michelle, Weinstein filled the center’s Eisenhower Theater with invited guests Nov. 20. On hand for the occasion were three of the capital’s most prominent figures – Hillary Clinton, Sen. John McCain and Gen. Colin Powell.
Other participants included host Weinstein, “Mandela” director Justin Chadwick, actress Naomie Harris and (via video tape) actor Idris Elba.
Clinton spoke of her 19-year friendship with the South African statesman in her roles as First Lady, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. “There is so much to admire and learn from Mandela’s life,” she said. “He was so committed to the cause of freedom that he took that long walk and paid a price,” she intoned.
Clinton reminisced about attending Mandela’s inauguration, and accompanying him on two trips to Robben Island to visit the prison cell where he spent 18 of his 27 years behind bars.
Powell said he would never forget the moment during Mandela’s inauguration when the new leader stepped forward to address cheering crowds and invited guests that included several of the Robben Island jailers who guarded him during his incarceration. “Mandela continues to inspire people around the world by his service to a greater cause,” said Powell.
Sen. McCain, the former Vietnam P.O.W. in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” said, “History offers few examples of people who sacrificed more for a cause greater than their self-interest than Nelson Mandela.”
McCain said of Mandela’s many exceptional qualities, he is most impressed by his demonstrated capacity for forgiveness. “Imprisoned unjustly for 27 years, he bore no hatred for those who took away his freedom. He didn’t demand retribution for the years stolen from him and others. He simply went about building a better country from the ashes of its tortured past.”
Also in attendance were emcee and CNN political commentator Paul Begala, Rep. Chaka Fattah, Rep. Barbara Lee, Ambassador Mula Mula of Tanzania, former NBA great Dikembe Mutombo, and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.