Equipment from the early days of cinema Shutterstock

Equipment from the early days of cinema Shutterstock

If you think I’m behind the times with my flip phone (I use it proudly!), I just now got around to watching two excellent movies from 2009: Invictus about Nelson Mandela, rugby coach Francois Pienaar and the importance of South Africa’s 1995 World Cup win and Into the Storm about Winston Churchill and WWII.

These films fascinated me because of the study of leadership skills and Power of One philosophy exhibited by the three main characters in overwhelming circumstances.

President Mandela congratulating Springbok rugby coach Francois Pienaar 1995-Sport Photo Gallery

President Mandela congratulating Springbok rugby coach Francois Pienaar 1995-Sport Photo Gallery

Mandela was a gifted, insightful man who understood the pulse of his country and earned immense credibility on both sides of the apartheid divide after emerging from more than two decades in prison. Pienaar had to foster a greater sense of purpose in his team and convince them to move beyond their low expectations for success. Churchill exuded conviction, fearlessness, fortitude and eloquence. All three men were led by a vision (theirs or someone else’s) and led by example.

With Invictus, it proved that no one and no thing is ‘just’ anything (fill in blank: just a game, just a job, etc.) Into the Storm, showed a world gone mad—not unlike today— the delicate layers of strategy involved in everything (interpersonal, military, political, psychological), double edged swords and changing fortunes.

Roosevelt and Churchill at  Casablanca c. January 24, 1943- FDR Library

Roosevelt and Churchill at Casablanca c. January 24, 1943- FDR Library

The harsh realities of public life and leadership took center stage for Churchill when after leading Great Britain and the world to victory, he was voted out of power within three months of the war’s end, partly due to not transitioning from war leader to peacetime Prime Minister. Sounds like, “what have you done for me lately?”

Another facet exposed was something that always captivates me about larger than life personalities such us these, their private lives ‘at home.’ These men were no different on that front than anyone else.

Mandela and Churchill in particular were heroic to the public, but a source of resentment to their wives and/or children in private as the obligations of both worlds collided. Mandela was married three times.

All in all if you wish to be inspired, learn a bit about history (they’re movies, not historically-vetted documentaries), be entertained and observe a variation of leadership qualities, these two films are worth a look.

Curious about “Coach’s Run. 6 a.m.”? Watch Invictus!

Movie quotes:

Nerine: Thinking about tomorrow?
Francois Pienaar: No. Tomorrow’s taken care of, one way or another. I was thinking about how you spend 30 years in a tiny cell, and come out ready to forgive the people who put you there.

Nelson Mandela: [reciting] Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole / I thanks whatever gods may be, for my unconquerable soul. / In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winced nor cried aloud / Under the bludgeonings of fate, my head is bloody, but unbowed. / Beyond this place of wrath and tears, looms but the horror of the shade / and yet, the menace of the years finds, and shall find me, unafraid. / It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll / I am the master of my fate – I am the captain of my soul.

Winston Churchill: ……Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender……


MORE: Morgan Freeman did a brilliant job depicting Mandela. Matt Dimon was wonderful, though I have no comparison re how realistic his depiction was of Coach Pienaar. Brendan Gleeson was nothing short of superb as Churchill’s clone! And Len Cariou was the best FDR I’ve ever seen.

“Coach’s Run” and “KBO” become two terms that grew into a charm of their own during Invictus, while a comment by Churchill about an innovative, yet questionable iceberg scheme produced a hilarious, LOL belly laugh comment by a military advisor in Into the Storm.

Coach’s Run referred to dreaded early morning running practice called by Pienaar. KBO refers to scoring and league standings, which became an insider joke between Pienaar and Mandela.

Very few movies drive me to tears, but Invictus caught hold at the get go and never let go until the end. I realized here was a gifted person and leader who endured 25 years or more imprisoned at hard labor, and then emerged encouraging his followers to forgive their brutal oppressors and move on to build their lives and their new nation.

Here was a person and leader who existed in my lifetime, but one to whom I didn’t pay enough attention. He was the last and probably only true leader the continent ever had. Tonight practically the whole place is falling into ruin. How we could use Mabida now.

This movie reminded that I read A Daughter’s Tale: The Memoir of Winston Churchill’s Youngest Child by Mary Soames a year or two ago. It was another interesting peek into the domestic world of a world leader, and how it was growing up during air raids and bombings in the epicenter of fighting a world war, and the importance of ‘normal domesticity’ during such a time.


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