The film Invictus, directed by Clint Eastwood, begins with the release of Nelson Mandela (played by Morgan Freeman), his election as president of South Africa, and focuses on his efforts to unite a country divided by race, with Blacks having high expectations and Whites fearful. The film ends in 1995, when the South African team, captained by François Pienaar (played by Matt Damon), wins the world rugby championship. During Mandela’s 24 years in captivity, he says, he studied Afrikaaners with all the diligence that he applied to his studies at law school. One lesson he learned was the importance of rugby to Afrikaaners, in particular the all-white Springbok national team. On hearing that the national sporting association has just voted to rename that team with an African name, he goes to the meeting in order to insist that the name must remain in interest of national unity. Then he invites François to have tea with him so that he can encourage the team to win in the interest of national unity, and makes similar gestures to other team members as well as the fans at rugby matches. Based on the book Playing the Enemy (2008) by John Carlin, the film demonstrates in other ways how Mandela was a statesman through his inclusive humanism. Few eyes will remain dry throughout the film, which has memorable epigrams, such as “Exceed your expectations!” and “I am the captain of my soul.” Perhaps the most important is what François says to Mandela after the latter congratulates: “Thank you for what you have done for the country.” In one emotional scene, the rugby team tours Mandela’s prison. Invictus (which means invincible and is the title of a poem that inspired Mandela) has been nominated by the Political Film Society as best film exposé and best film on democracy and human rights of 2009. It is a biography and biopic from which President Barack Obama might learn a lot.  MH

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