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A Dry White Season (1989)

Ben du Toit is a schoolteacher who always has considered himself a man of caring and justice, at least on the individual level. When his gardener's son is brutally beaten up by the police ... See full summary »



(novel) (as André Brink), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 win & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ben du Toit
Susan du Toit
Stanley Makhaya
Captain Stolz (as Jurgen Prochnow)
Melanie Bruwer
Winston Ntshona ...
Gordon Ngubene
Thoko Ntshinga ...
Emily Ngubene
Leonard Maguire ...
Gerard Thoolen ...
Colonel Viljoen
Suzette du Toit
Andrew Whaley ...
Rowen Elmes ...
Johan du Toit
Stella Dickin ...
Susan's Mother
David de Keyser ...
Susan's Father (as David De Keyser)


Ben du Toit is a schoolteacher who always has considered himself a man of caring and justice, at least on the individual level. When his gardener's son is brutally beaten up by the police at a demonstration by black school children, he gradually begins to realize his own society is built on a pillar of injustice and exploitation. Written by Mattias Thuresson

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

20 September 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Assassinato Sob Custódia  »

Box Office


$3,766,879 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The meaning and relevance of the film and source novel's "A Dry White Season" title is, according to the Scholieren website, the explanation of the title is such: "A dry white season refers to the dry white season when he was just a little boy. His father lost all of his sheep during that season, forcing them to sell the farm and move. The dry white season took everything from them, leaving them alone and scorched among the white skeletons of dead sheep. It was where he first discovered himself and the world. Now he's enduring another dry white season. Everything is being taken from him. He's facing himself and the world ones again." See more »


When the camera pulls away from the court house (Harare City Hall) a bus drives past displaying an advertisement for Balkan Bulgarian Airlines, which flew to Zimbabwe, but not to South Africa under apartheid during the 1970s. See more »


Ian McKenzie: I will take your case if only to make it abundantly clear how justice in South Africa is misapplied when it comes to the question of race.
See more »


Featured in The 62nd Annual Academy Awards (1990) See more »


Written by Joseph Shabalala
Performed by Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
Produced by Danny Lawson for Night After Night Ltd.
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User Reviews

"Your Son Will Not Believe Their Lies"
17 April 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

It took the cause and message of A Dry White Season for Marlon Brando to leave his self-imposed exile in Tahiti to come back to the screen, albeit in a small supporting role. Still the cause was one of the most remarkable in the 20th Century, the eventually successful opposition to the white apartheid government of the Union of South Africa.

A Dry White Season was originally a novel concerned with the aftermath of the famous Soweto Massacre when South African troops fired on a protest of black Bantu children being forced to learn in Afrikaans the language of the oppressor as Desmond Tutu so eloquently put it.

The son of the gardener at Donald Sutherland's estate is killed in Soweto and his body is not returned. After which the gardener Winston Ntshona is picked up by the special branch of the South African Police for asking too many questions and later he dies in prison the result of a suicide which no one with a functioning brain believes. At that point Sutherland decides to intervene himself.

Sutherland plays a history teacher in a white only school and as he learns about what's going on and starts asking the questions he dare not ask before even to himself. His radicalization is total, but it costs him dear, his wife Janet Suzman and his daughter Sussanah Harker leave him, but his young son Rowen Elnes sticks with dad.

It's not that he doesn't gain a few new friends, African National Congress organizer Zakes Mokae, crusading journalist Susan Sarandon, and human rights attorney Marlon Brando. But he also gains a bitter and malevolent enemy in Special Branch Captain Jurgen Prochnow who apparently does damage control for the government. That includes outright murder of suspected opposition to the apartheid government.

Every actor worth his salt loves a courtroom scene and Marlon Brando might have even come back for that in this film as well as the anti- apartheid cause. He got the film's only Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, but lost to Denzel Washington for Glory. I suspect given Marlon's history with Oscar folks were reluctant to vote for him.

The film really belongs to star Donald Sutherland though and I think it a pity he wasn't given any Oscar nomination for this fine film with an eternal message about freedom.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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