Singer Jennifer Hudosn Sparks Controversy in South Africa-SA Actors Don’t Want her Playing Winnie Mandela


JOHANNESBURG (AFP) – South African actors want to stop Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson from playing Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in a new film on the ex-wife of the nation’s first black president, reports said Monday.

The Creative Workers Union of South Africa said using foreign actors to tell the country’s stories undermined efforts to develop the national film industry.

“It can’t happen that we want to develop our own Hollywood and yet bring in imports,” the union’s president Mabutho Sithole said in The Citizen newspaper.

“This decision must be reversed, it must be stopped now,” union secretary general Oupa Lebogo said in The Times. “If the matter doesn’t come up for discussion, we will push for a moratorium to be placed on the film.”

Hudson, who scooped a best supporting actress Oscar in 2007 for the musical “Dreamgirls”, landed the role of Madikizela-Mandela last month.

The film will be directed by South African film-maker Darrell J. Roodt, whose films include “Cry, The Beloved Country” and “Sarafina.”

The criticism comes just days before the opening of the Clint Eastwood film “Invictus”, a drama about Nelson Mandela and South Africa’s 1995 rugby World Cup victory which united the nation.

Morgan Freeman plays the president and Matt Damon is the rugby team captain.

Madikizela-Mandela campaigned tirelessly for her husband’s release during his 27-year imprisonment in the apartheid era.

However, her image was tarnished by a series of scandals including her links to the kidnap and murder of a young activist and a 2003 conviction for fraud.

She separated from Nelson Mandela in 1992, two years after his release.


Here’s a couple of articles I found in South African newspapers.. I wanted to see what they were saying. First, I didn’t see a whole lot of info on this controversy via the papers on line..but here’s a couple of columns that give this story more context..-davey D-

Right, so the Creative Workers’ Union of SA is having a go at Jennifer Hudson because she’s been cast to play Winnie Mandela in an upcoming film about the “mother of the nation”. In an article by Sipho Masondo in today’s The Times, he writes “The union said foreign actors should not play leading roles in South African movies because it undermined the growth of the local creative industry.” Read the rest of the story here.

 Now I’m waiting to find out more about the casting process of this role and how Ms Hudson got it, but you know what I’m pretty sure it’s because of her talent. As an actor, one is expected to transform into any given character, be it speaking with a different dialect or a change in one’s physique in order to pull off the role. Charlize has done it in America, so why can Hudson not do it in South Africa? Why was this not an issue when Morgan Freeman was cast as Nelson Mandela in Invictus? Come on, the double standards here are priceless.

@ Oupa Lebogo. This is a legitimate question… besides Florence Masebe, who else would play the role better? Also if you look at the caliber of actresses she beat out at the 2007 Oscars, who are we to judge how good she is an actress if she won an Oscar
(Fellow nominees included Adriana Barraza (Babel), Cate Blanchett (Notes on a Scandal), Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) and Rinko Kikuchi (Babel)

Yes I agree that the arts aren’t given nearly enough credit that they’re owed, but perhaps instead of pouncing on J Hud, the union should pounce on the president, the arts and culture minister. Tell them to put more money into the arts. Tell them to provide more funding to filmmakers who want to compete (technically) with the rest of the world. In that way film producers won’t have to go out and abroad to look for funding. Film director Anant Singh and actress Florence Masebe make good points, “From a creative point of view we have a great wealth of talent locally. However, it’s very difficult to prescribe how a movie should be made. There are commercial imperatives and if you want a movie to be made you have to do it a certain way. It’s all about balance.
“The integrity of the South African film industry can be maintained. Look at Sarafina. I had [American actress] Whoopi Goldberg, but I also had Leleti Khumalo playing a leading role.” (Singh)


Have you heard? American star Jennifer Hudson will be playing Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in an upcoming biopic. I’m not sure what your first reaction to that is, but mine was: Winnie can sing?? Not the Creative Workers’ Union of SA, however. In true trade-union style they immediately decried this Western imperial domination of a local industry and demanded national auditions and free hats for everyone. Or something like that.

Union general secretary Oupa Lebogo said: “This decision must be reversed, it must be stopped now. If the matter doesn’t come up for discussion, we will push for a moratorium to be placed on the film being cast in South Africa. We are being undermined, there is no respect at all,” TimesLive reported.

And of course, middle-class South Africans everywhere were disgusted. They probably stopped listening at the word moratorium.

“Im sick and tired of all this B@#LS&^T that’s going on in SA,” said one commenter ferociously. “These people keep on complaining of all the wrongs, yet they are so tired to lift their ass up and do anything. Why didn’t they think of it and do something before the foreigners did?”

Hear hear! I’m sure you’re saying right about now. Followed immediately by that favourite argument: Oscar-winning and bankable Hollywood stars will draw in the audiences! This is good for us. The same commenter thought so. “Name just one actor/actress that will generate money and lure people to the movie house in South Africa … NOT ONE and that is a fact.”

I’m almost sad for the Creative Workers’ Union. I wished they could’ve been a little more, well, creative. Demanding people take you seriously is so nineties revolutionary. Because all they had to do was consult a list of South African films starring big Hollywood stars and take a look at their box-office results. Wham bam — argument won.

Remember Goodbye Bafana? It’s OK if you don’t — no one else does. The story of Nelson Mandela’s friendship with a prison warder was brought to us by the acclaimed director of The House of the Spirits and starred Hollywood star Joseph Fiennes. The numbers say it all. It cost a whopping $30-million to make and brought in under $3-million and received virtually no release in the US.

You think Winnie director Darrell Roodt would have learned from Cry the Beloved Country. It made even less in the US with $676 525, despite starring heavyweight James Earl Jones.

Taye Diggs

And then there’s Drum which, though it featured the fabulous Taye Diggs, failed to make much of an impression at the box office here or abroad.

The logic has not worked for them and it certainly didn’t work when incorporated into Hansie, as anyone who had to sit through the accent of the American actress playing his wife in that flop can attest to.

So urgent is our desire to be vindicated by Hollywood that we forget the massive irony at work here. The movies that have been massive successes — District 9, Tsotsi and Jerusalema — for example, featured South Africans in all the lead roles. District 9 was most notable for its disregard of American expectations and unashamedly South African accents, actors and themes. If you haven’t heard that movie’s success story I can’t help you out from under that rock but I can tell you that as of November it made a worldwide total of $200-million, more than six times its estimated production budget of $30-million.

Is it because there were South Africans in the lead? No, it was because it was a damn good film. But the presence of Hollywood actors in important movies about our past have historically been failures, and ones that are stupid to repeat.

“I don’t think [anyone but a South African] can even begin to understand what we mean when we say Winnie is the mother of the nation,” actress Florence Masebe sniffed. Winnie is no mother of mine, but if I were to see a movie about her I’d like to spend my time immersed in a good plot. Not cringing at the accent.


SOUTH African actors have criticised a decision to have American R&B singer Jennifer Hudson play the role of Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in an upcoming film.

The Creative Workers’ Union of SA (CWUSA) at the weekend called on local movie maker Darrell Roodt to rethink Hudson’s role as lead actress in the film about Madikizela-Mandela’s life, reported The Times.

“The decision must be reversed, it must be stopped now,” said union general secretary Oupa Lebogo.

“If the matter doesn’t come up for discussion, we will push for a moratorium to be placed on the film being cast in South Africa.

“We are being undermined – there is no respect at all.”

Production of the film is set begin on May 30 next year.

Lebogo said South Africa had “people who can the play the role far better than Jennifer”.

Actors John Kani, Florence Masebe and Mpho Molepo said CWUSA was heeding a call by President Jacob Zuma to take action and unite on issues affecting the entertainment business.

“Every time there is a movie that tells a South African story, it is done by someone who must be taught the right way of pronouncing Sawubona. Enough is enough,” said Kani, according to The Citizen newspaper.

The CWUSA called for the reinstatement of working permits for international producers who want to make films in South Africa.

Film director Anant Singh said he agreed South Africa had a wealth of talent.

“However, it is very difficult to prescribe how a movie should be made. There are commercial imperatives and if you want a movie to be made, you have to do it a certain way. It’s all about balance,” said Singh. – Sapa

Actress Florence Masebe said the issue was far bigger than “Winnie and Jennifer. Why do Americans and foreigners play the roles we hold so dear? The roles of people we respect. I don’t think [anyone but a South African] can even begin to understand what we mean when we say Winnie is the mother of the nation.” Again I go back to my point on Morgan Freeman playing Madiba….

This is a tricky and rather sensitive subject, I get that. We all know this movie is going to happen, no matter what. So here’s a possible solution I have in mind. Why not have Hudson share some of her skills, secrets into being an A-list actress with local talent when she’s here. Set up a workshop, funded by government one day during shooting, empower the artists by knowledge-sharing? I think instead of lambasting this talented woman, we should look at suggestions and possible solutions rather…

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