Winnie Madikizela-Mandela calls 'Winnie' biopic an 'insult'

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ex-wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, has harsh words for the biopic Winnie starring Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard awaiting release. “I have absolutely nothing against Jennifer, but I have everything against the movie itself,” she recently told CNN. “I was not consulted. I am still alive. And I think that it is total disrespect to come to South Africa, make a movie about my struggle, and call that movie some translation of ‘The Romantic Life of Winnie Mandela.’ I think it is an insult. I don’t know what would be romantic in our bitter struggle.” Watch the interview below. 

“What do they know about what Robben Island was like?” she continued. “What do they know about, for instance, me held in a death cell? I was held in a death cell when I was detained for those 18 months in solitary confinement. How would they know that? How would they know how I felt? And how do you go and translate anyone’s emotions? That person is still alive, and you want to do exactly what the previous enemy did: They always said they knew what we thought…. That movie does precisely just that.”

Contacted by EW for comment, producers of the film released the following statement: “The producers of Winnie are grateful for the interest shown, and suggest that the film be allowed to speak for itself.” A rep for South African director Darrell Roodt could not be reached.

Madikizela-Mandela recently attended the opening of Winnie: the Opera in Pretoria, South Africa.


Comments (73 total) Add your comment
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  • bmo

    that’s a shame…

    • MarcHon

      Agree…good for her to speak out. It’s inexcusable for those involved in this movie to let a great living resource go unused.

      How could Jennifer Hudson not reach out to Winnie as part of preparing for the role?

      • AK

        Because Winnie’s version of history is probably very different than reality.

      • Voodoo

        @AK, you’ve got that right. Need I remind everybody of the fact that Nelson divorced her because she was convicted of the participation in the kidnapping and murder of a 14-year-old boy?

      • l

        Well if Nixon gets to be consulted and he is A WAR CRIMINAL, then Winnie needs to get to be put in the AFTER film scenes that the filmakers easily could do!!!
        When MLK was convicted does not mean that it was NOT a wrongful conviction. HOW MANY FAIR COURTS do we have in the world.
        Go see Fruitvale Station also to decide how much an economically UNFAIR hostile world system capitalism- affects judiciary branch of ALL governments.
        And keep up with real news richard wolff economist for lay folks on!

  • Mia

    Totally agree!! What a shame..when I heard they were making this movie it was automatic that I thought she she would be consulted!

    • the_girl

      I remember reading an article back when Jennifer was cast that said Winnie approved of the casting. There was all this uproar about why didn’t they get a South African woman to play Winnie and it came out that Winnie approved of Jennifer playing her. So I’m just really surprised about this.

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  • charlotte

    Same here. I’m glad that she spoke out and I think everything she says is right on. It’s completely disrespectful to do that kind of “biopic” without consulting the actual person who they’re hoping to depict! I would be equally upset.

  • Dee Jones

    Has she seen the film? Is the fill going to be released this year, I haven`t heard no more about it.

  • Gregoire

    It sounds like she’s upset about the description of the film. Doesn’t sound like she’s actually seen it.

    • ellenbuddle

      Yes, well, isn’t it a bit awful that she hasn’t seen it though? Given that it’s about her and is looking to make a profit out of her very difficult early life.

  • Chris

    She’s just jealous of Jennifer Hudson. Jennifer should have passed on this project and did a Aretha Franklin biopic. She would have at least been grateful. Why do Africans hate American Blacks so much? Once again jealousy.

    • Dee Jones

      That Aretha Franklin biopic will never see the light of day, as long as Aretha is involved. It`s Aretha`s way or no way.

    • eugene

      why would south africans be jealous of black americans? Have u ever been to south africa, do you even now where it is on the map? If anything south africans admire the fact that black americans are able to make a place for themselves in their white dominated country, that they also rose up and fought against systematic oppression and racism. It seems only reasonable that anyone making a biopic would consult the person who the biopic is about.

      • Chris

        Incredibly jealous.

      • @eugene

        Wow, you’re a racist AND delusional.

    • Fingerlakes Dave

      What a closed minded and short sighted view of the world.

    • Miss Talk

      Why do people have to generalize everything ???
      It’s a d%mn BIOPIC !!! Winnie Mandela HAS to give her approval especially if the movie is named after her! It doesn’t matter if what she did was right or wrong, it’s HER life.
      Africans don’t hate African-Americans and I’m pretty sure you’re not even black just based on that STUPID/IGNORANT comment.

      • Brett

        What world do YOU live in? No one needs permission from the subject to do a biopic about him or her. That person’s cooperation would be helpful, especially if the subject was forthcoming about his or her life’s details, but there’s no rule or law requiring consent.

      • D

        like an unauthorized biography of someone, an unauthorized biopic of someone do not need the permission of that person or participation. she obviously was not consulted or given her approved consent for this film.

    • kremzeek!

      what chris said is actually very true.africans do hate american blacks because they see being descendants of slaves as a stigma.fact is african chiefs participated in the kidnapping of other africans by slave traders,so if it weren’t for them we american-borns wouldn’t be here.

    • princely

      i dnt thnk its jealousy she clearly stated that she has nothing against Jennifer if they wanted to do the movie great but why not consult Winnie? jus simple courtesy

    • tumi

      And what exactly are “Africans” jealous of? Speaking as a South African(BTW Africa is a continent not a country) African history has its story tellers. Winnie Madikizela Mandela fought the regime so that today 35 year old, black female me can have more than a bachelors degree, hold an executive position and live in a country with the best constitution on earth. Yes she has her faults but compared to most of us who bury our heads in the sand, the woman is a liberator and a saint. Yes she deserves respect from those who will use her name to add to their bank balance.

  • joe

    She’s been convicted of 43 counts of fraud and 25 of theft after she pleaded guilty for taking money from accounts for a funeral fund and got a suspended sentence. Nelson Mandela divorced her for cheating on him, she was dismissed as the Appointed Deputy Minister of Arts, etc. for allegations of corruption. She called Archbishop Tutu a cretin and she’s been convicted of kidnaping and assault that killed a 14 year old boy and only got fined for pete’s sake! What is wrong with people that a university would have her deliver a paper or that writers and movie makers would create paeans to this woman? She’s no better than the government she helped overthrow!

    • ger

      Joe, you nailed it. She’s pissed that people will be reminded of her not so saintly side.

    • @AmericanExpatinUK

      She may be all of those things. However do those misdeeds make her less of an anti-apartheid hero or negate her own time being imprisoned in Pretoria? Not at all. So many people, esp. Americans, want their public figures to be perfect shining examples (simple and un-complicated). MLK had affairs every which way around and fathered children outside of his marriage. Is he suddenly persona non-grata and does that make him less a civil rights advocate? FDR had over 100,000 Japanese Americans put into internment camps during WW2 does this mean all other successes he had are to be dismissed? I guess we should no longer recognize the New Deal, success during WW2 or any of the grand things he accomplished? Please grow up!

      • Lala

        Hitler was responsible for the death of millions of people but hey, he built the Autobahn! I think you are the one that needs to grow up.

      • Will

        Why do people always say “grow up” when they disagree with something that someone writes on the internet? I find it so strange.

    • Tom

      Joe, you are 100% correct. Winnie Mandela is a horrible person & doesn’t deserve to have any respect. People keep acting like she is good simply because her last name is Mandela. She isn’t the Mandela who did good deeds, she is the one who was a rampant criminal. While Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner, she was a criminal who helped no one but herself with her own people as the target. Just because she was married to Nelson Mandela doesn’t mean that she is an anointed one. Nelson Mandela suffered horribly in the atrocious name of Apartheid, she DID NOT!

      • princely

        she’s the one who walked the road who lived the life.who are we to judge her? to label her? if shez not your hero so be it but she is somebody eles’ so let it be.she has suffered yet she came out the victor!she survived wether she commited those crimes or not how many of us are clean?

  • Aitu4

    I completely agree with her. To make a biopic and choose not to consult the living subject is negligent filmmaking. And insulting of course, especially for someone who is so well regarded.

    (do love me some j-hud tho!)

    • Aitu4

      to clarify – I meant “well regarded” with respect to the apartheid struggle, not the personal problems mentioned by joe above

    • Brett

      It’s not “negligent film making.” There have been dozens of successful biopics made about long dead people; was it “negligent” to make the movie since permission couldn’t be obtained? Where events of a living subject’s life are well-documented and/or verifiable by looking to other sources, permission of the subject isn’t necessary.

    • Tom

      Winnie Mandela is a murderer and was an advocate of terrorism.

      Read the following, she is hardly someone who is respected in the Apartheid struggle.

      “Mandela’s reputation was damaged by what many considered her sometimes bloodthirsty rhetoric, the most noteworthy example of this being a speech she gave in Munsieville on 13 April 1986, where she endorsed the practice of necklacing (burning people alive using tyres and petrol) in the struggle to end apartheid. She said, “with our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country”.

      Further tarnishing her reputation were accusations by her bodyguard, Jerry Musivuzi Richardson, that Winnie Madikizela-Mandela ordered kidnapping and murder. On 29 December 1988, Richardson, coach of the Mandela United Football Club (MUFC) – which acted as Mrs. Mandela’s personal security detail[10] – abducted 14-year-old James Seipei (also known as Stompie Moeketsi) and three other youths from the home of Methodist minister Rev. Paul Verryn. Mrs. Mandela claimed that she had the youth taken to her home because she suspected the reverend was sexually abusing them. The four were beaten in order to get them to admit to sex with the reverend and Seipei was also accused of being an informer. Seipei’s body was found in a field with stab wounds to the throat on 6 January 1989. This incident became a cause célèbre for the apartheid government. In 1991, she was convicted of kidnapping and being an accessory to assault in connection with the death of Seipei. Her six-year jail sentence was reduced to a fine on appeal. The final report of the South African Truth and Reconciliation commission, issued in 1998, found “Ms Winnie Madikizela Mandela politically and morally accountable for the gross violations of human rights committed by the MUFC.””

  • greg

    Maybe they didn’t want or need her input.

    • hannibal

      i’m thinking they didn’t want to pay her.

  • Kirkland

    They should’ve consulted Winnie Mandela, plain and simple.

  • Kirkland

    Joe, do you know all the “crimes” of the white leaders during apartheid. Let’s see you rattle those off.

    • Brett

      That’s irrelevant. The movie’s about Winnie Mandela. Should George W. Bush have been consulted by Oliver Stone before he made “W.”? Your arguments fail.

      • ellenbuddle

        Unless the conclusion is that they should have. Would we be happy if we found out that no one involved was consulted in the writing of World Trade Center? Probably not. This is actually an interesting debate about dramatic depictions of real people and recent events. Should we always seek to hear from those most closely involved, or are there situations where that might actually sully the finished product. Is it only people with a spotless reputation who retain the right to be asked about depictions of their life? That doesn’t seem quite right to me, but it also doesn’t seem like a cut and dry issue.

    • princely

      thnk u good question

  • Jane

    There were reports early on of the producers attempt to consult with Winnie, but she refused. She didn’t want it made from the start. Google it.

  • eugene

    your ignorance is highlighted by the fact u refer to africans, as if africa is one big country. I can only speak for SOUTH africans, which is a country on the continent of africa because i am south african. based on me living in south africa i can say that your generalisation of all africans being jealous of black americans is faulty by your use of the term africans.@whoever, yes it was the cause of my delusions that non-white south africans and americans were subjected to laws that discriminated against them. I agree that having winnie as a subject of a documentary is dicey in light of her checkered, but maybe it was meant to portray her in the light of someone who had her faults despite being a struggle icon in south africa. I also aggre that the makers have artistic license when producing a film but for should at least seek out her advice on the film. And if it is that she didnt want to co-operate, well i guess thats her loss and she can take it up with the court.

    • Dan Marley

      Eugene …. Don’t be so shallow and narrow minded; wallowing in such parochial/narrow horizons!

      The struggle against Apartheid in South Africa, like the efforts to maintain the exploitation of South Africans under Apartheid was engaged in by people inside and OUTSIDE SOuth Africa! Winnie Mandela’s fight was the fight of all freedom loving people all over Africa and beyond!

      Your ignrance of matters outside YOUR village in South Africa is nothing worthy of boasting to the world about!!

      Please take the time out to grow and learn some more about the world outside your mother’s lap and embrace. That said, Winnie was also our heroine. And those who enslaved Africans or enslave them TODAY, be they white , yellow, blue or Green – are enemies of a nobler humanity – and they ought to have the worst come their way, for a change!

      And look around you! Slavery continues as surely as thievery by hook and crook also continues… which you may deny IF YOU ARE ONE OF THE FEW who has been given one of the small gold mines for your personal use and a few millions of dollars and armaments to bribe and arm a few goons against the people as their common wealth is siphoned away!

      P/s 1. Just look up the names of people in Soth Africa and then look up the names of People farther up north near the great lakes by Africa’s belly button, and you will realize you have your kinsmen up there, too! And don’t forget to listen to their languages, either! THERE IS A PEOPLE CALLED AFRICANS, by the way! And they are not determined by artificial boundaries drawn across and between their villages and homesteads by marauding Europeans as you seem to want to so reading assert!!

      P/s 2. Some of those boundaries were drawn when my grandfather was already making children!

      P/s 3: How much os South Africa’s fertile farmland has now been returned to the rightful owners in the free South Africa you are so proud of?

      The far sighted amongst you better go up north and help Mugabe in his efforts so when the time comes he can help you in your struggle to get back your great great grandparent’s lands! That is, unless you are yesterday’s European wanderer wannabe African by killing Chris Hanni, Steve Biko etc and taking their land!

      I salute you!

  • Carol

    She should be offended that Jennifer Hudson is playing her. JH can sing but she cannot act. Stinky.

  • Miki

    I thought this was an article about the new Winnie the Pooh movie…

    • Fingerlakes Dave

      Grow up. And while there, get a clue.

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