Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) is chief editor of the liberal newspaper "Daily Dispatch" in South Africa. He has written several editorials critical of the views of Steve Biko (Denzel Washington). 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 to illegally escape the country.Written by
Lew Wasserman, the head of MCA/Universal, told Richard Attenborough to "clear his shelves of his Oscars for Gandhi (1982), as this movie was going to sweep the board at the Academy awards and, in fact,, pre-release test screenings resulted in many positive audience reactions. However, the film proved to be a disaster at the US box office and failed to receive any nominations in any of the major Oscar categories, except Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Denzel Washington. See more »
When Donald Wodds goes to tell Steve Biko that he is to be criminally prosecuted for withholding the witness name, he founds him playing rugby with his friends. During apartheid period, rugby was considered primarily a "white" sport, soccer being the one played by the Black majority. So there is no way a black person would play, take part, watch or attend a rugby match at the time the action takes place (late '70s). See more »
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 »
On certain versions, the list of detainees who died in custody (see "Crazy Credits") is followed by a message: "Since the re-imposition of Emergency Regulations on 11th June, 1987, no further information regarding political detainees has been forthcoming." 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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