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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Palm World Voices - Mandela
Palm World Voices - Mandela
Palm Pictures // Unrated // July 18, 2006
List Price: $39.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Todd Douglass Jr. | posted August 4, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Documentary:

In case you haven't heard of the brand yet, Palm World Voices are an interesting endeavor. Many sets have come out featuring different cultures from around the globe, but the packages are relatively similar. Each set offers a DVD documentary, a National Geographic Map, a booklet and an audio CD. The latest Palm World Voices release prominently portrays the life of Nelson Mandela and includes an album with music from his nation blended with a touch of jazz.

On the documentary side of things Mandela's tale is told through a lengthy interview in the form of Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation. If you're a fan of documentaries and you're thinking that title sounds familiar, then congratulations you win a cookie. The film by Angus Gibson and Jo Menell was originally released in 1997 and was even nominated for an Oscar. It's not the most energetic documentary that you'll ever see, but it certainly is one with a lot of passion. Mandela's love for Africa comes through in nearly every frame and the filmmakers did a fantastic job of piecing his story together.

I typically find interview style documentaries to be kind of boring because when you get right down to it, it's just one person talking for the entire thing. Mandela has a charisma though and a presence that is hard to deny. Listening to him talk about his childhood from being raised with eight other children and living with a father that had four wives to being adopted by a chief and prepped as a councilor for the king is surprisingly interesting and insightful. Through each stage in his life he takes us through the steps amidst a catchy soundtrack and some stock footage depicting the time period or events he was talking about. Thankfully, video of Mandela getting his foreskin sliced off by a spear wasn't included.

From there he talks about becoming a lawyer and getting involved with the ANC (African National Congress). With the ANC he fought against apartheid and eventually ascended their ranks to take command of the group. In the early 60s Mandela was arrested and it wasn't until 1990 that he was released. F.W. de Klerk arranged Mandela's departure from prison and it was he who lost the election to Mandela in 1994, but not before sharing a noble-prize in 1993 for the abolishment of apartheid.

Unfortunately because of the structure of this documentary it can be as boring as it is interesting. Having a lone commentator, even if it is Mandela, gives this feature an extremely slow pace. The vintage footage and soundtrack help keep things from getting too dull, but I couldn't help feeling my interest begin to wane. I would say due to the length of this documentary it would be best experienced in a couple of sittings instead of just one. Then again, it really hinges on your interest in the material.

Clocking in at just shy of the two hour mark, Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation is a deeply personal look at the life of Nelson Mandela. I always find it interesting to hear influential people reminisce over the events of their life with subtle details that the history books didn't pick up on. In that regard this documentary finds success in spades and it's easy to see why it was nominated for an Oscar back in 1997. It can be a little dry at times but that flaw is easy to overlook in the grand scheme of things. The rest of this boxed set from Palm World Voices helps flesh out the experience as well, so anyone interested in African culture, or Nelson Mandela in particular, will definitely want to check this out.

The DVD:

Video:

Originally released in 1997 this documentary is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio. The image quality is fair though it's nothing to really get all that excited about. The picture comes across as soft most of the time with a lot of grain and speckle at parts. Featured stock footage is of varying quality as well depending on its age. Overall it's not a bad picture for a documentary that is almost ten years old, but a cleaned up image would have gone a long way.

Audio:

Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation comes with English 2.0 Stereo as the only sound option. For what it is, it's acceptable, but it isn't anything to write home about. Just like the video, the presentation here is underwhelming especially because the sound tends to blend together. Music is often overbearing compared to the dialogue and there is a lack of English subtitles. Other than that there really is no technical flaw here. Points are lost merely on the lesser presentation.

Extras:

Apart from the documentary featured on this set, the supplemental material is where it's really at. On the DVD itself there are only a handful of trailers for other Palm World Voices releases. Some insight but the directors of the documentary would have been interesting, but since this release is more of a focus on Mandela and the African culture, it wasn't necessary to include something like that.

The CD that comes with the set includes 26 tracks and is quite diverse in content. It's comprised of entirely African performers and features some traditional and hybrid jazz offerings. Even if you don't find world music particularly fascinating there will probably be a couple of songs here that will appeal to you thanks to the diversity.

A 20" x 30" map of Africa from National Geographic is included with significant dates and moments in Mandela's life. There is quite a lot of information on here but it's nothing that you won't get out of watching the documentary. Finally there is a 47 page booklet inserted into the case which acts as a companion piece. Images from the National Geographic map are printed in here along with more information. It's neat and adds to the presentation merits for this release but as far as supplemental material is concerned it's relatively light.

Final Thoughts:

Mandela: Son of Africa, Father of a Nation is a fantastic documentary that is well deserving of the Oscar nomination it received back in 1997. Mandela's commentary through it is deeply personal and brings to light the plight of Africa in relation to apartheid. The only problem I had with the documentary itself was the fact that it was pretty dry at points and felt a little stretched thin. Palm World Voices assembles a nice little package here with the included CD, map, and booklet, but as far as DVD grades are concerned the technical presentation isn't as rich as we could have hoped for. If you enjoy documentaries or are interested in all things Africa you'll want to check this release out.


Check out more of my reviews here. Head on over to my anime blog as well for random musings and reviews of anime, manga, and stuff from Japan!

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