Cry Freedom (1987) - Plot Summary Poster



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  • 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.

  • South African journalist Donald Woods is forced to flee the country, after attempting to investigate the death in custody of his friend, the black activist Steve Biko.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Cry Freedom is the story of Donald Woods (Kevin Kline), editor of Daily Despatch, a liberal newspaper in East London, South Africa and his historic friendship with Steven Biko (Denzel Washington), one of the most respected freedom fighters of South Africa. The movie is set in South Africa under the apartheid regime.

    Woods does not appreciate the ideologies of Steve Biko and often publishes criticism against his views. But with time, he develops a liking for Biko's views and decides to meet him in person. This historic meeting leads to an instantaneous friendship and very soon, Woods' newspaper starts publishing pro-Biko articles regularly.

    This gets noticed and attracts the iron hand of the white supremist government and Woods is put under house arrest. Meanwhile Biko is also arrested and the torture that follows leads to his death in custody. Rebellion against the government breaks out in different parts of the country.

    Meanwhile Woods decides to tell the world about the ideologies of Steve Biko and the atrocities under the rule of the apartheid government. He successfully compiles a volume and prepares to get it published - but realises that this will not be possible sitting in South Africa. So he to plans an escape. The family splits up - Woods' wife and children plan a 'holiday' at his in-laws' place near the Lesotho border while Woods himself embarks on a hitchhike from East London to Maseru (capital of Lesotho). They face numerous obstacles en-route and come perilously close to getting caught by the authorities.

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