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I show this film to university students in speech and media law because its lessons are timeless: Why speaking out against injustice is important and can bring about the changes sought by the oppressed. Why freedom of the press and freedom of speech are essential to democracy. This is a must-see story of how apartheid was brought to the attention of the world through the activism of Steven Biko and the journalism of Donald Woods. It also gives an important lesson of free speech: "You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire. Once the flame begins to catch, the wind will blow it higher." (From Biko by Peter Gabriel, on Shaking the Tree).
This film is, quite simply, brilliant. The cinematography is good, the
acting superb and the story absolutely breathtaking. This is the story of
Donald Woods, a white South African who thought himself a liberal until he
found out the reality of apartheid. Kevin Kline is completely convincing -
so much so that when Donald Woods himself appeared on TV some years later,
recognised him from Kline's portrayal. Denzel Washington also turns in a
masterful performance, as ever.
I urge you to watch this. It is long, but it is worth your patience because it tells such an incredible story. Remember, folks, this really happened.
Billed as the story of Steve Biko -- played excellently by Denzel
Washington, as you'd expect -- this was actually more the story of Donald
Woods, played by Kevin Kline.
This was undoubtedly the making of Kline as a serious actor, and he was surprisingly good in the role.
Attenborough gave this the sort of direction you'd expect, and the often spectacular scenes of the masses were those of the sort that only he can get across.
The remainder of the cast was competent enough and did a good job, in what ends up as an ultimately sad tale of a South Africa that is still nowhere near the distant past.
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.
As anyone old enough knows, South Africa long suffered under the vile,
racist oppression of apartheid, which completely subjugated the black
population. One of the most famous anti-apartheid activists was Steve
Biko, who was murdered in jail. Following the murder, reporter Donald
Woods sought to get Biko's message out to the world.
In "Cry Freedom", Woods (Kevin Kline) befriends Biko (Denzel Washington) before the latter is arrested on trumped up charges. When Woods attempts to spread Biko's word, he and his family begin living under threat of attack, and they are finally forced to flee the country. The last scene gut-wrenchingly shows police firing on protesters.
As one of two movies (along with "A World Apart") that helped galvanize the anti-apartheid movement, "Cry Freedom" stands out as possibly the best ever work for all involved.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
On watching this movie as part of background research for my GCSE
History I was moved enough to search for details on it. To my horror
the user known as Howlin Wolf harshly described the movie as 'mostly 2
and a half hours of boredom punctuated by occasional flickers of
interest when Kline or Washington were given a passionate monologue to
deliver'. How can a person, after watching the story of thousands of
people in South Africa at the time some up such a excellent movie in
I have to admit, at parts of the movie I was less interested then at others but how can the movie as a whole be described as boring? Okay, so its a movie but not all movies are made for entertainment! Cry Freedom is a moving movie BASED ON A TRUE STORY AND TRUE PEOPLE. What right does Howlin Wolf have to say its boring?
If you, like Howlin Wolf, find it boring, look into the details. In an event portrayed in the movie 700 CHILDREN are brutally shot just because they refuse to learn 'the white man's language' of Afrikanaas. In another event,a man is reported as dying by 'self-strangulation'? How is it possible to call the plight of others boring?
I thoroughly recommend people who can feel empathy for others to watch this and enjoy superb actors portray a time in history which is still under heavy discussion.
I saw the film for the first time in 1987, when it came out. I was
touched by this story and I began being interested in other Sir
I think "Cry freedom" is not as strong as "Gandhi", nevertheless it's a movie worth to see. Because it talks about the struggles of Steven Biko, the anti-apartheid leader killed by South African government in '77. The film is seen with the eyes of Donald Woods, his friend journalist who quit the country with his family for being "too close to the black battles"...
The first part of the film is really excellent. Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington are extraordinary, the movie is a cinematic joy (good screenplay, good dialogues and good cinematography). The second part, when Woods (Kline) organizes the run of his family from South Africa, becomes more conventional and shot in a very "Hollywood style" (although the film is British!). The message of the movie is neglected in favour of a more spectacular plot.
By the way "Cry freedom" is a good movie because it talks about values like freedom, friendship and respect of human rights.
I think the context of the story has been covered by other posters so I
would just like to write about the impact this film had on me.
I first saw this film the year of it's release around 1987. My school organised a trip to the cinema to see it, for an RE project I think. We all went along of course excited because we were on a school trip to the cinema! Little did we know what we were about to experience. To this day I still remember the feelings it invoked in me and i remembered crying a lot as were most of my friends. I think at the age we were we found it shocking and quiet rightly outraged in our own youthful way .It had such an impact on me that I joined the Anti Apartheid Movement the same year.
I think it served it's purpose in my case.
Cry Freedom was such a touching, unforgettable film. The acting was amazing, and they picked the perfect cast. I watched this at my school last year for the first time, and the first scene made me want to cry! Cry Freedom made me laugh, cry, confused, and made me just want to scream at those people who treated blacks cruelly! I recommend you rent this movie. 10/10
Richard Attenborough is one storyteller. 'Gandhi' & 'Chaplin' are
widely regarded & respected to this date. 'Cry Freedom', according to
me, is his finest work since 'Gandhi'. This British drama takes place
in a time of violence, and is executed with flourish. Even the
performances are top-notch!
'Cry Freedom' is set in the late 1970s, during the apartheid era of South Africa and centers around the real-life events involving black activist Steve Biko and his friend Donald Woods, who initially finds him destructive, and attempts to understand his way of life.
'Cry Freedom' delves into the ideas of discrimination, political corruption, and the repercussions of violence. Based on a pair of books by journalist Donald Woods, this human-tragedy is wonderfully written by John Briley. Also, the dialogue at places, give you goose-flesh. Sure, the writing does drag a bit, but that doesn't effect it's impact.
Richard Attenborough knows what he's making. He knows this isn't an easy story to make. But, the veteran directs each frame with flourish. Cinematography by Ronnie Taylor, is excellent. Editing & Art Design, are perfect.
Performance-Wise: Denzel Washington is fantastic as Steve Biko. He delivers a performance that easily ranks amongst his finest works to date. Kevin Kline as Donald Woods, on the other-hand, is restrained all through. Not once does he go over the top. Penelope Wilton is effective. Kevin McNally scores. Others lend good support.
On the whole, 'Cry Freedom' is a terrific film, that over-shadows it's flaws, cleverly. Don't miss this one!
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