The Weinstein Company has fortified its awards war chest by taking North American, Australian and New Zealand rights to Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom starring Idris Elba [pictured]. Pathe will release in the UK and France and handles international sales.

Justin Chadwick directs the official adaptation of the former South African leader’s autobiography from producer Anant Singh, who began talks with Mandela while the former ANC leader was still in prison and eventually acquired rights in 1996.

Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom shot in South Africa last year in KwaZulu-Natal and filmed in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Mandela’s home province, the Eastern Cape.

The story traces Mandela’s struggle as leader of the ANC during South Africa’s Apartheid years, his imprisonment by the authorities, his eventual release and election as president. William Nicholson adapted the screenplay.

“Anant Singh is a producer I respect very much,” said Mandela. “Given the resources and backing, he will produce a work of the highest standards and excellence, and it is for that reason, I opted for him.”

“TWC is the best North American distributor for Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom and I am delighted to continue our association of over 20 years with Harvey, which began with Sarafina And Cry, The Beloved Country and was followed by many other films,” said Singh.

“Anant Singh first gave the book to me in 1994, when the first edition came out,” said Weinstein. “We have been talking about making this film since 1999. There have been a number of stop and goes, but sometimes things work out for a reason, and Anant Singh has done a masterful job in producing this epic story of our times.”

Naomie Harris plays Winnie Mandela and the cast includes Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Zolani Mkiva, Jamie Bartlett, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Deon Lotz and Terry Pheto.

TWC negotiated with Weintraub Tobin on behalf of Singh’s Distant Horizon.