Item - 16TH MAN

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52 mins

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Director: Clifford Bestall: USA/South Africa, 2009
Producer: Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary for Revelations Entertainment Productions in association with Shadow Pictures
Series: 30 for 30: no. 13, ESPN (Entertainment and Sports Programming Network)
Writer: John Carlin
Narrator: Morgan Freeman
The filmmaker sets the stage by putting the 1995 World Cup in proper context – apartheid, Robben Island, racism, bitterness, apprehension. Rugby was viewed as a game for the white population, and the country’s success in the sport had been a true source of Afrikaner pride. When the 50-year-old policies and entrenched injustices of apartheid were finally overthrown in 1994, Nelson Mandela’s new government began rebuilding a nation badly in need of racial unity. So the world was watching when South Africa played host to the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Though they had only one black player, the Springboks gained supporters of all colors as they made an improbable run into the final match where they beat the heavily favoured All Blacks. When Mandela himself walked onto the pitch in a Springbok jersey and shook hands with the captain of the South African team, two nations became one. Morgan Freeman and director Cliff Bestall tell the emotional story of that pivotal moment and what it meant to South Africa’s healing process. The highlights of the games in Bestall’s film shows the faithfulness with which Eastwood recreated those same scenes in Invictus. The gravity and foresight of Mandela’s decision to unite South Africans through rugby is almost impossible to appreciate, even in retrospect. Even Tutu still marvels at the poetry and the history of the 1995 World Cup. “Who would have ever imagined that people would be dancing in the streets in Soweto for a rugby victory of a Springbok side?” But they did!” The 16th Man provides dynamic characters like Bekebeke, a black man who killed a white policeman and openly rooted for the Springboks to lose because of his hatred of whites, and Koos Botha, a former conservative leader in South Africa who bombed an integrated school and once longed to see Mandela hanged. The 1995 World Cup unfolded in genuinely turbulent times and The 16th Man gives us a feel for the ferocity of the scrum. We don’t have the first-person memories of Mandela but the flm makes its point. Put simply, sport transformed a country and undoubtedly saved lives. Mandela said “Sport has the ability to change the world. It has the power to inspire, the power to unite people that little else has. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers.”


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