's inspirational docudrama Goodbye Bafana
begins in 1968, with South Africa buried neck-deep in the horrors of apartheid and Nelson Mandela
) -- then an underground leader of the African National Congress -- imprisoned on Robben Island for sedition. As the story opens, the native African population of the country -- 25 million in number -- buckles beneath the crippling weight of the racist white minority, who control the Nationalist Party Government. The film follows the spiritual and psychological journey of James Gregory (Joseph Fiennes
), a Caucasian Afrikaner who came of age on a farm in the Transkei and initially views all blacks as subhuman. Gregory also speaks Mandela's native language of Xhosa with perfect fluency, which makes him an ideal candidate to serve as warden of the Robben Island Prison and eavesdrop on Mandela and his inmates. What he fails to anticipate is the most unlikely and special of friendships (one of history's greatest) that burgeons between himself and Mandela -- and helps him evolve from a narrow-minded bigot with limited self-awareness to a sensitive, humane critic of social injustice with a heightened awareness of humankind's ill treatment of one another and a genuine love for his fellow man. As the friendship between Gregory and Mandela grows and matures, it symbolizes Africa's transition from the oppressiveness of apartheid to the freedom of multiracial democracy.