6.5/10
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12 user 8 critic

Song of Freedom (1936)

A black British dockworker named Johnny Zinga becomes a famous singer and learns that he is the rightful king of the African island of Casanga.

Director:

J. Elder Wills

Writers:

Claude Wallace (story "The Kingdom of Zinga"), Dorothy Holloway (story "The Kingdom of Zinga") | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Paul Robeson ... John 'Johnny' Zinga
Elisabeth Welch Elisabeth Welch ... Ruth Zinga (as Elizabeth Welch)
Esme Percy ... Gabriel Donozetti
Robert Adams Robert Adams ... Monty
James Solomon James Solomon ... Native Leader
Tony Wane Tony Wane ... Mandingo (as Ecce Homo Toto)
Ronald Simpson Ronald Simpson ... Mr. Blane, the Pianist
George Mozart George Mozart ... Bert Puddick
Jenny Dean Jenny Dean ... Marian
Joan Fred Emney ... Nell Puddick
Bernard Ansell Bernard Ansell ... Sir James Pyrie (as Bernerd Ansell)
Johnnie Schofield Johnnie Schofield
Ambrose Manning Ambrose Manning ... Trader
Arthur Elliott Arthur Elliott ... (as Hon. Arthur Eliot)
Cornelia Smith Cornelia Smith ... Queen Zinga (as Miss C. Smith)
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Storyline

A black British dockworker named Johnny Zinga becomes a famous singer and learns that he is the rightful king of the African island of Casanga.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Robeson In His Most Memorable Role!-Cast of Thousands In $500,000 Epic!

Genres:

Drama | Music

Certificate:

See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

UK

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

17 March 1947 (Denmark) See more »

Also Known As:

A Canção da Liberdade See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hammer Films See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (RCA Photophone System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This film was first telecast on New York City's pioneer television station W2XBS 17 July 1940. See more »

Connections

Featured in American Masters: Paul Robeson: Here I Stand (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho
(uncredited)
Traditional
Sung a cappella by Paul Robeson
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A true original...
24 June 2010 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

It's sad that this sort of film simply could not have been made in Paul Robeson's home country at the time due to racism. Instead, Robeson went to the UK and made a few films--too few. I say this because he had a wonderful screen presence and his singing was gorgeous.

Robeson plays 'John Zinga'--a London dockworker descended from royalty back in Africa. Oddly, he lacks a British accent (while Robeson was a brilliant and multi-talented man, apparently a British accent was beyond him) and he has a weird sort of consciousness of his people and Africa within him. It goes far deeper than his interest in his cultural homeland--Robeson's character is fixated on the place and seems to have bits and pieces in the back of his mind about his homeland--though no one apparently ever told him about this--at least as far as he can remember. So, after becoming a huge singing star and learning more about the exact place in Africa where his forebears came from, he takes off for the place to get in touch with his roots.

The second portion of the film takes place an Zananga, Africa. There, Robeson is eventually recognized as a descendant of kings and brings culture, medicine and western civilization to these people--but it is a hard fight to get them to abandon their ineffective ways. It's nice that it's NOT a case of whites bringing this to these 'dark' people but a black man bringing this knowledge to them--making it seem a little less paternalistic. In many ways, this portion of the film seems like a call to other black men and women to return and contribute to their ancestral lands.

Overall, while the film might seem a bit old fashioned today, it really is a remarkable film in many ways. The most obvious is because of its unusual subject mater, but more important aspects should not be lost on the viewer. To have a mainstream film starring a strong and talented black man was very progressive for its day. And, seeing Robeson liked and respected by all as a person--even by his white co-workers. In many ways the film comes off as a bit overly ideal--absent is racism and in this film a good black man can achieve practically anything--a message that must have resonated in the black communities in the UK as well as back home in the States. A daring film and a great chance to see and hear an amazingly gifted man. For more on this, read his biography on IMDb--you'll see what I mean.


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