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In the back country of South Africa, black minister Stephen Kumalo (Canada Lee) journeys to the city to search for his missing son, only to find his people living in squalor and his son a criminal. Reverend Misimangu (Sidney Poitier) is a young South African clergyman who helps find his missing son-turned-thief and sister-turned-prostitute in the slums of Johannesburg. Written by
The film was shot in South Africa. Since the country was ruled by strict apartheid (enforced racial separation) laws, stars Sidney Poitier and Canada Lee and producer/director Zoltan Korda cooked up a scheme where they told the South African immigration authorities that Poitier and Lee were not actors but were Korda's indentured servants; otherwise, the two black actors and the white director would not have been allowed to associate with each other while they were in the country. See more »
A really good film could be made about the making of Cry, the Beloved Country which in itself is a landmark film about the early stages of the formal apartheid society in the Union of South Africa.
There's a famous story of Alfred Hitchcock shooting the scene with Cary Grant fleeing the United Nations on the sly with a hidden camera because the UN would not grant him permission to film. That's nothing to what Zoltan Korda had to just even getting Canada Lee and young Sidney Poitier into South Africa in the guise of houseboys. He filmed all the outdoor stuff on location there and the government never caught on. Had they caught on it might have meant prison, it certainly at a minimum would have resulted in deportation.,
Canada Lee plays Reverend Stephen Kumalo who comes to Johannesburg in search of his missing son Absalom. Another man of the cloth, Sidney Poitier helps him search for his son who among other things has gotten a woman pregnant and has committed murder during a robbery attempt in a fit of panic.
The rest of the story is not a pleasant one, but strangely uplifting as Lee, father of the murderer and the father of the victim who was a liberal South African fighting the apartheid regime pledge mutually out of their grief to work for a just society. It took a long time and it's not all together there yet, but South Africa is one of the great success stories of the past century about people of good will righting terrible wrongs.
Alan Paton the author was a prophet with no honor in his own country. His book, a world best seller, was banned in the Union of South Africa and Paton himself ostracized. Paton was a committed Christian who really did believe that all people were indeed equal and fought for that ideal all his life. He died in the mid eighties and sadly did not live to see the fall of apartheid.
Though a big budget film of Cry, the Beloved Country came out in the nineties, this time with the cooperation of the Mandela government, this film still sets a high standard just for courage in the making.
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