Host country for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, South Africa also hosted the 1995 Rugby World Cup, an event that changed the nation forever. The movie Invictus (Latin for “unconquered”), which tells the story, takes its title from a poem by the English poet, William Ernest Henley (1849-1903).
Invictus [Warner Bros.]
Starring: Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon
Release Date: 2009
From 1948 to 1994, under the policy of apartheid, South Africa was segregated by race, with insurgent blacks fighting against a government controlled by powerful whites. But following the presidential election of a former prisoner inmate, political activist Nelson Mandela [Freeman], the country united behind its national rugby team, made up of mostly whites.
Watching the team compete in a match, Mandela notices that black South Africans root against their home team. He realizes that the rugby team could provide a rallying point to help him unite the country. After convincing his skeptical advisers that the idea could work, Mandela meets with team captain François Pienaar [Damon] to enlist his support. Pienaar agrees to lead the team on a tour of the townships to teach the game to its poor black residents. When the players see the impact they are having on the locals, their team chemistry changes; and when the tournament begins, they are cheered on by blacks and whites alike.
STACK’s Take: Based on the book, Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Changed a Nation, by John Carlin, the movie is more about politics than athletics. A diehard rugby fan himself, Mandela brilliantly conceives and executes a plan that uses the team to heal his divided country. But don’t get me wrong. The movie has some great scenes on the rugby pitch. Extremely inspirational, it shows the incredible impact a sports team can have on a community or nation.
by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank 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 chance
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 punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.