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Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has been something of a dark horse (no pun) in the fall awards season buildup – but the biopic is poised to a get boost now that Mandela has passed on. The timing of release can either been seen as an unfortunate and awkward thing, or a fitting eulogy for the South Africa icon.

Following the story of Nelson Mandela’s childhood up to his election as the first black elected president of South Africa in 1994, Long Walk to Freedom will cover the foundation of the man, and the political turmoil in the region that led to him serving over 27 years in prison for conspiracy to overthrow the apartheid government of the time. Idris Elba (The Wire, Luther) plays Mandela in his adult years, while actress Naomie Harris (Skyfall) plays activist (and Mandela’s eventual wife) Winnie Madikizela.

While some people may point to Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Nelson Mandela in the 2009 film Invictus as THE defining cinematic portrait of the man, Invictus was actually a thin slice out of Mandela’s life during his first presidential term – and the movie isn’t really about him, when you get down to it.

Long Walk to Freedom is a much wider portrait of the man –  strangely fitting for this time when the world is remembering him. With 3 Golden Globe nominations – including one for Elba – this movie will be in discussion at the major 2014 awards ceremonies.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom will be in US theaters on Christmas Day.