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Goodbye Bafana

Promotional movie poster for the film
Directed by Bille August
Written by James Gregory (book)
Greg Latter (screenplay)
Starring Dennis Haysbert
Joseph Fiennes
Release date(s) 2007
Running time 140 min.
Country UK
South Africa
Language English, Xhosa

Goodbye Bafana, also released under the name The Color of Freedom[1], is a 2007 drama film about the relationship between Nelson Mandela (Dennis Haysbert) and James Gregory (Joseph Fiennes), his censor officer and prison guard, based on the book Goodbye Bafana: Nelson Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend by James Gregory. Bafana is the name of the Gregory's black childhood friend.



Filming took place in the second half of 2006 in South Africa with Danish director Bille August. Nelson Mandela is played by Dennis Haysbert, James Gregory is played by Joseph Fiennes, and his wife by Diane Kruger.

On January 4, 2007, it was announced that the film would be in the main competition at the 2007 Berlinale, the international film festival in Berlin. The world premiere took place on the festival on February 11, 2007.



The book was derided by Mandela's longtime friend, the late Anthony Sampson. In Sampson's book Mandela: the Authorised Biography he accused James Gregory, who died of cancer in 2003, of lying and violating Mandela's privacy in his work Goodbye Bafana. Sampson said that Gregory had rarely spoken to Mandela, but censored the letters sent to the prisoner and used this information to fabricate a close relationship with him. Sampson also claimed that other warders suspected Gregory of spying for the government, and that Mandela considered suing Gregory. [2]

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela mentions James Gregory in two occasions. The first was during his imprisonment in Pollsmoor:

"Often, Winnie's visits were overseen by Warrant Officer James Gregory, who had been a censor on Robben Island. I had not known him terribly well, but he knew us, because he had been responsible for reviewing our incoming and outgoing mail. At Pollsmoor I got to know Gregory better and found him a welcome contrast to the typical warder. He was polished and soft-spoken, and treated Winnie with courtesy and deference".

The second occasion that Mandela mentions Gregory in his autobiography is on the day of his release in 1990 from prison:

"Warrant Officer James Gregory was also there at the house, and I embraced him warmly. In the years that he had looked after me from Pollsmoor through Victor Verster, we had never discussed politics, but our bond was an unspoken one and I would miss his soothing presence". [3]

The Making Of video of the film contains an interview with Nelson Mandela where he speaks of James Gregory as follows:

He was one of the most refined warders. Well-informed and courteous with everybody. Soft spoken. Very good observations. I developed a lot of respect for him.[4]

In an interview with the Irish journalist Seamus Martin Mandela,referring to his relationship with Gregory, said: "Well you know, the first occupation of a person who goes to prison is the cultivation of good relations with warders because such a warder can be more important than the Minister for Justice or the Commissioner of Prisons who holds the rank of General. If you go to the Minister for Justice or the Commissioner of Prisons and you say ‘I want four blankets’ he will look up the regulations and say ‘No the regulations say you must only receive two blankets’ and you come back with empty hands. But if you go to the section warder that you have cultivated and you ask for the same thing, he goes to the stores for the blankets and he takes them out and he gives them to you. "Because they can only persecute you though the warders, then if you get the support of a warder, he can give you a bit of advice even before he commits some form of cruelty."[5]


  1. ^ Color of Freedom Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes
  2. ^ Mandela: The Authorised Biography, p.217.
  3. ^ Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, Little, Brown & Company, 1994, pages 449 and 490
  4. ^ Goodbye Bafana: The Making Of, official DVD release of the film.
  5. ^ The Irish Times February 24th 1990, page 21.

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