"The Color of Freedom" (also known as "Goodbye Bafana") is based on the memoirs of James Gregory, South African prison guard and censor officer, who died in 2003. The name of the book is "Goodbye Bafana: Nelson Mandela, My Prisoner, My Friend," and you may think the book title tells all you have to know. In fact, the truth is a bit different in the film directed by Bille August ("Pelle the Conqueror"). (And I know the controversy over the original book, but I will not talk about it here.)
Though August's film is inspired by the life of a man who guarded one of the most important political figures of our time, the story of "The Color of Freedom" is not exactly about Nelson Mandela (played by Dennis Haysbert). It is more about James Gregory himself and his family - his wife (Diane Kruger) and their children - and the spiritual transformation James goes through. The story is told against the background of modern South African history, but its perspective is always that of James Gregory.
"The Color of Freedom" can be seen as a portrait of a man caught between his ideal and reality, or family and establishment. Superior officers don't like the idea of a warden talking friendly with the prisoners, much less reading Freedom Charter in secret. While watching the film, I thought his friendship with Nelson Mandela could easily jeopardize James's position and James would have to pay the price of his spiritual freedom, but ... well, I cannot disclose the plot, which I think is not very dramatic. But you may find it differently.
Dennis Haysber is surprisingly good as Nelson Mandela and Joseph Fiennes did a great job, actually his career-best acting, as the protagonist. The locations of South Africa provide beautiful sceneries and the credible backdrop for the story, but the characters of James Gregory and Nelson Mandela need to be fleshed out more, especially the latter. To understand the changes that happened in James, we have to know more about Nelson Mandela and his personality, but the script lacks information and insight, which could have made the film much better.