Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson, recently cast to play Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 'Winnie' -- a new film about the wife of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president -- has come in for some flack for being cast in the role. But it's criticism that's not very well founded.

According to AFP and other sources, the Creative Workers Union of South Africa, a group representing that country's actors, 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. Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Hudson, recently cast to play Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 'Winnie' -- a new film about the wife of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first black president -- has come in for some flack for being cast in the role. But it's criticism that's not very well founded.

According to AFP and other sources, the Creative Workers Union of South Africa, a group representing that country's actors, 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," Sithole said. "If the matter doesn't come up for discussion, we will push for a moratorium to be placed on the film."

In addition, the IOL, a South African news site representing a host of South African newspapers, asked its readers in November if Jennifer Hudson was the right choice to play Winnie Mandela; 64% responded in the negative.

The film will be directed in South Africa by South African filmmaker Darrell J. Roodt, whose movies include 'Cry, the Beloved Country' and 'Sarafina.' Although Madikizela-Mandela stood by her husband during his years of imprisonment in South Africa, her image was tarnished when she was associated with a bodyguard involved in a murder; she was later convicted of fraud for stealing from a funeral fund. The Mandelas were divorced in 1996.

All this comes on the cusp of the Dec. 11 opening of 'Invictus,' Clint Eastwood's drama about Mandela's release from prison and his attempt to use the 1995 Rugby World Cup to help bring his country together after the fall of apartheid. Morgan Freeman plays Mandela.

'Invictus' was filmed in South Africa and has not come in for the opposition that the Hudson film has engendered. That lack of controversy may be due to the fact that Mandela, in a roundabout way, gave his blessing to the production. According to Freeman -- no stranger to South Africa (he starred in the big-screen adaptation of 'The Power of One' and directed 'Bopha!') -- someone asked Mandela at a press conference in the 1990s who should play him in a movie, and he said Freeman. The two later met and, Freeman said, Mandela "told me he wanted me to play him in a movie someday. For that I asked him to give me personal access so that I could understand his body language. He readily agreed."

I see no major problem in casting Hudson in the role of Winnie Mandela. Though primarily a singer, she's garnered acting roles in 'Dreamgirls' (for which she won an Oscar), 'Sex and the City' and 'The Secret Life of Bees,' and just could rise to the occasion here. The stance of the South African actors' union seems a bit misguided and opportunistic: They aren't planning a boycott of 'Invictus,' so is there some kind of double standard here? Is it OK to let big-names Freeman and Eastwood co-opt Joburg's Hollywood but not Hudson?

Perhaps it's just a power play, and the home-grown business is feeling its oats and flexing its muscles after the immense success of the South African directed-and-acted sleeper hit 'District 9.'

What do you think?

Do you think Hudson should play Winnie Mandela?
Yes. She'd be right for the role.57 (62.6%)
No. A South African actress should be cast.34 (37.4%)



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