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When a Whole Country Unite: Invictus

The 1995 World Cup Final was, to most people around the world, little more than a thrilling rugby match. But to the people of South Africa, it was a turning point in their history—a shared experience that helped to heal the wounds of the past even as it gave new hope for the future. The architect of this benchmark event was the nation’s president, Nelson Mandela. Its builders were the members of South Africa’s rugby team, the Springboks, led by their captain, Francois Pienaar.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, Warner Bros.’ inspiring drama “Invictus” chronicles how President Mandela (Morgan Freeman) and Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) joined forces to turn their individual hopes—the president, to unite his country; the captain, to lead the nation’s team to World Cup glory—into one shared goal with the motto “One team, one country.”

In the film, Mandela calls upon Pienaar to lead his team to greatness, citing a poem that was a source of inspiration and strength to him during his years in prison. It is later revealed that the poem is “Invictus,” by William Ernest Henley. The title is translated to mean “unconquered,” which, Eastwood says, “doesn’t represent any one character element of the story. It takes on a broader meaning over the course of the film.”

Morgan Freeman stars in the role of Nelson Mandela and also serves as an executive producer on the film. “This is an important story about a world-shaking event that too few people know about,” he states. “I cannot think of any moment in history when a nation coalesced so suddenly and so completely. I was proud to have the opportunity to tell this story. And when you have the chance to tell it with Clint Eastwood’s abilities…it’s something you just have to do.”

As “Invictus” opens, Nelson Mandela—a man who had spent 27 years in prison for fighting against apartheid—is elected president of a South Africa that is still bitterly divided. Though the unjust system has officially ended, the long-held racial lines between people cannot easily be erased. With his country teetering on the brink of implosion, President Mandela sees hope in an unlikely place: the rugby field. With South Africa poised to host the World Cup Finals, Mandela looks to unite the country behind their national team, the Springboks.

Eastwood notes, “This story takes place at a critical point in Mandela’s presidency. I think he demonstrated great wisdom in incorporating sport to reconcile his country. He knows he needs to pull everybody together, to find a way to appeal to their national pride—one thing, perhaps the only thing, they have in common at that time. He knows the white population and the black population will ultimately have to work together as a team or the country will not succeed, so he shows a lot of creativity using a sports team as a means to an end.”

Mandela reaches out to the one man who can help him accomplish his objective: the captain of the Springbok team, Francois Pienaar. Matt Damon portrays the rugby player who suddenly finds himself in the center of a political arena. “Mandela basically asks him to exceed his country’s expectations and his own expectations and win the World Cup,” the actor says. “It’s an enormous request, but Francois knows that it’s actually bigger than any rugby match. And along the way, the entire team realize they have become an important instrument in bringing their country together. It’s a beautiful, inspiring story that shines a light on the best of who we are and what human beings are capable of. And what makes it more incredible is that it really happened.”

Opening soon across the Philippines, “Invictus” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

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