Twenty-five million blacks are ruled by a minority of four million whites under the brutal Apartheid regime of the Nationalist Party Government. Black people basically have no rights. They can not vote, they can not own any land, they can not come and go as they please, own a business and even pick their housing or schools their children can attend. Any black organisation or leader speaking out immediately ends up in imprisonment for life on Robben Island.
James Gregory's (Joseph Fiennes) is a racist white South African prison guard anxiously awaiting a promotion. He is assigned the duty of guarding a new prisoner, Nelson Mandela (Dennis Haysbert), to prove his worth to the warden. Along with his wife Gloria (Diane Kruger), the couple is relocated to a fancy home on Robben Island where James meets Mandela for the first time.
Like others, Gregory regards blacks beneath humans. He learned how to speak Xhosa at an early age when he and a fellow boy he played with taught it to him. The warden feels this might be an asset to spy on the prisoners over hearing them speak in their native tongue.
When Winnie Mandela (Faith Ndukwana), comes to visit her husband, she is treated poorly just because of her color. But the more time Gregory spends with Mandela, the more he bonds with him and eventually smuggles chocolate to his wife as a Christmas present. When the warden finds out, and the rest of the town, they all turn against Gregory and his wife for conversing with the "black" enemy. Gregory spends over 25 years of his life guarding Mandela and the two become close behind the watchful eye of the warden. As Nelson Mandela is finally released, Gregory realises that Mandela is not only a hero to the people of South Africa, but he is a beacon of hope and strength to the world.
Director: Bille August
Writers: Bille August, Greg Latter
Producers: Ilann Girard, Jean-Luc Van Damme, Andro Steinborn