A drama based on the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College Texas. In 1935, he inspired students to form the school's first debate team, which went on to challenge Harvard in the national championship.
Donald Woods is chief editor of the liberal newspaper Daily Dispatch in South Africa. He has written several editorials critical of the views of Steve Biko. But after having met him for the first time, he changes his opinion. They meet several times, and this means that Woods and his family get attention from the security police. When Steve Biko dies in police custody, he writes a book about Biko. The only way to get it published is for Woods himself to illegally escape the country. Written by
The filmmakers intended to shoot in South Africa as early as October 1986 with permission from select prominent figures including Oliver Tambo and Winnie Mandela. After interviewing Mandela, the chief production crew was tailed around by the S.A gestapo all the time and was forced to leave South Africa. Also, the SABC at that time deliberately misinterpreted Richard Attenborough's decision of shooting the film in October and instead broadcast the news of him starting a revolution sponsored by Russia. See more »
Although the film is set in South Africa, circa 1977, one of the buses arriving at Steve Biko's funeral plainly bears advertising for Charon's - a Zimbabwean brand of sweets not known in South Africa. See more »
You can beat or jail me or even kill me, but I am not going to be what you want me to be!
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Preceding the final credits is a list of other detainees who died in the custody of the South African police. Steven Biko's name appears on the list. See more »
Must-viewing just to begin to understand apartheid's legacy
CRY FREEDOM is an excellent primer for those wanting an overview of apartheid's cruelty in just a couple of hours. Famed director Richard Attenborough (GANDHI) is certainly no stranger to the genre, and the collaboration of the real-life Mr. and Mrs. Woods, the main white characters in their book and in this film, lends further authenticity to CRY FREEDOM. The video now in release actually runs a little over 2 and a half hours since 23 minutes of extra footage was inserted to make it a two part TV miniseries after the film's initial theatrical release. While the added length serves to heighten the film's forgivable flaws: uneven character development and blanket stereotyping in particular, another possible flaw (the insistence on the white characters' fate over that of the African ones) may work out as a strength. Viewing CRYING FREEDOM as a politically and historically educational film (as I think it should, over its artistic merits), the story is one which black Africans know only too well, though the younger generation may now need to see it on film for full impact. It is the whites who have always been the film's and the book's target audience, hopefully driving them to change. Now twelve years after the movie's production, CRY FREEDOM is in many ways a more interesting film to watch. Almost ten years after black majority rule has been at least theorically in place, 1987's CRY FREEDOM's ideals remain by and large unrealized. It therefore remains as imperative as ever for white South Africans, particularly the younger ones who have only heard of these actions to see it, and absorb the film's messages. In total contrast to American slavery and the Jewish Holocaust's exposure, South Africans' struggles have been told by a mere two or three stories: CRY FREEDOM, CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY (OK, Count it twice if you include the remake), and SARAFINA (did I miss one?). All three dramas also clumsily feature American and British actors in both the white and black roles. Not one South African actor has played a major role, white, coloured, Indian or Black!). And yes I did miss another international South African drama, MANDELA and DEKLERK. Though this (also highly recommended) biopic was released after black majority rule was instituted, MANDELA was played by a Black American (Sidney Poitier, who also starred in the original S.A.-themed CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY), while the Afrikaner DeKlerk was played by a (bald) very British Michael Caine, a good performance if you can dismiss that the very essence of Afrikanerdom is vehement anti-British feelings. Until local SABC TV and African films start dealing with their own legacy, CRY FREEDOM is about as authentic as you'll get. As villified as the whites (particularly the Afrikaners) are portrayed in the film, any observant (non-casual) visitor to South Africa even now in 1999, not to mention 1977 when CRY FREEDOM takes place, will generally find white's attitudes towards blacks restrained, even understated. Looking at CRY FREEDOM in hindsight, it is amazing that reconciliation can take place at all, and it is. But CRY FREEDOM at time shows not much has really changed in many people's minds yet, and that the Black Africans' goal to FREEDOM and reconciliation is still ongoing. This is why if you're a novice to the situation, CRY FREEDOM, is your best introduction.
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