Cry Freedom (1987)
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
The story is based on real life characters and events. The book on which the movie was based, was written by Donald Woods (Kevin Kline), a journalist who used to work in South Africa until the end of the seventies. It traces the origins of Woods friendship with the charismatic black leader Steve Biko, who is wonderfully portrayed by Denzel Washington. I cannot imagine a better choice for the role. Washington exudes a natural charm and screen presence, which Biko's character required.
While initially, Woods was against what he felt was black racism being spread by Biko, after meeting the man, he could not help being drawn into his struggles and ideas. The bond between them grows stronger, and Woods and his family realise and become more sensitive to the plight of the people Biko represents.
However, finally, tragedy strikes, and Woods must now concentrate on escaping from South Africa, with his book, so that he can get it published and let the outside world know what is going on. The second half of the movie is a gripping tale of his escape from South Africa, along with his family, and will keep you on tenterhooks.
There are some deliciously humorous dialogues too. The scene between Biko and the lawyer in the courtroom is an example.
Lawyer: Do you advocate violence? Biko: I advocate a confrontation. Lawyer: Well, isn't that violence, Mr. Biko? Biko: Not necessarily. You and I are having a confrontation now, but i don't see any violence.
However, there are moments that bring you back to the horrors that pervaded the country before better sense prevailed. The scene where the army opens fire on a protest by school children is gut wrenching and heartbreaking.
This is definitely a must watch. I would suggest those not familiar with Attenborough's work, do take time out for this. There are movies which make a lot of money. And there are movies which make lives. I would any day prefer the latter.
'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!
Kline plays Donald Woods, a South Africa newspaper editor who befriends the civil rights activist Steve Biko. It starts as a difficult friendship, for Woods sees Biko as a black supremacist preaching hatred against whites. But Biko, with his kind words, upbeat attitude and complete transparency, wins over Woods and introduces him to a reality about Apartheid that Woods knew nothing about.
Biko is a decent, law-abiding citizen who altruistically stands up against all prejudice and the system that keeps down his people. One night, coming from an illegal meeting, he's arrested and beaten to death. The authorities try to hush up the matter because Biko has become a huge personality in South Africa. But through the efforts of Woods the truth comes out. But what should be a triumph only becomes a nightmare as Woods and his family become targets for the secret police.
This movie has an interesting structure. It has in fact two narratives: first it narrates the life and death of Biko. It's an amazing first half, completely dominated by the charisma of Washington in what may be his greatest performance yet.
The second half, no less interesting, narrates Woods attempt to escape from South Africa to publish a book about Biko. Woods has become an enemy of state, a banned person, which means he can't meet people or leave his country. Plus he's constantly spied by the police. Kevin Kline gives a great performance in this second half too.
Although the first half is quite straightforward, the second does interesting things with editing, by giving flashbacks of Biko and of events that show the repression against the black South Africans. Some may argue this is to make it more interesting, but for me the second half just as captivating, as Woods and his family devise a bold plan to escape South Africa.
The last minutes were so heartbreaking I was in tears. George Fenton and Jonas Gwangwa's score certainly had something to do with it. Although I've never been much of a fan of Fenton (cannot stand his Gandhi score), I do think the score for Cry Freedom is one of the most beautiful ever composed for cinema. The movie, thanks to the music married to the powerful images, at times reached incredible peaks of emotion.
Cry Freedom is definitely not a movie just to watch because of Denzel Washington. This is a movie to be cherished in its entirety. Acting, writing, music, editing, cinematography come together in a perfect synthesis to create an ode to the power of the human spirit. This movie deserve a place alongside movies like The Pianist, Life Is beautiful and The Shawshank Redemption.
Cry Freedom visually looks amazing. With the show-stopping cinematography and the stunning South African scenery it was a visual feast. The opening scenes especially were brilliantly shot. George Fenton's music brought real dramatic weight to most scenes. It was subtle in scenes in the second half, but stirring and dramatic in the crowd scenes. The script was of exceptional quality, the courtroom scenes with Biko were enough to really make you think wow this is real quality stuff. The first half with Biko as the main focus constantly had something to feel emotional about, whether it was the police's attack of the South African citizens or Biko's death. The second half entirely about Donald Woods carries less of an emotional punch, but is compensated by how it is shot, performed and written. And there are parts that are genuinely suspenseful as well.
The performances were exceptional from the entire cast, from the most minor character to the two leads, there wasn't a single bad performance. Regardless of the accents that is, but it is forgiven so easily by how much the performances draw you in. Denzel Washington in one of his more understated performances, gives a truly compelling performance as Biko, and Kevin Kline shows that he can be as good at drama as he is at comedy, for he gave a suitably subtle performance to match that of Washington's. And the two men's chemistry is believable and never strikes a false note. Penelope Wilton is lovely as Donald's wife Wendy, and she is a great actress anyway. Out the supporting performances, and there may be some bias, two stood out for me. One was Timothy West, who relishes his role as Captain DeWet. The other was the ever exceptional John Thaw in a brilliantly chilling cameo-role as Kruger. Lord Richard Attenborough's direction is focused and constantly sensitive as usual.
Overall, a truly wonderful film. Ambitious and long it is, but never ceases to be compelling, powerful and achingly moving. A definite winner from Lord Richard Attenborough, and worthy of a lot more praise. 10/10 Bethany Cox
The first half is an interesting portrayal of an unlikely friendship between activist Steve Biko and Editor Don Woods (played fanatically by Dezel Washington and Kevin Klein). While the second half deals with Woods looking for answers on Biko's death.
Although most people favor the first half of the movie which focuses on the unlikely friendship between Biko and Woods'. I found the second half about Don woods struggle to have Biko's story be heard around the world much more interesting.
When I saw the movie I knew it should be a prototype for every biographical movie.
The film begins with Steven Biko (Denzel Washington) approaching the liberal white reporter, Donald Woods (Kevin Klein). While Woods thinks he's enlightened, he is a supporter of the white regime and is blind to some of the evils of apartheid. Over time, Biko is able to win over Woods--and Woods is introduced to black society within the township of Soweto. Later, after incurring the wrath of the white government, Biko is arrested and beaten to death. However, the death was written off as just some accident and Woods is determined to get out of the country and expose the brutality of the South African regime. The problem is, they are not about to just let him leave. So, Woods and his family come up with a very daring plan--a plan that takes half the film. As a sort of epilogue, the film ends with the bloody police attack on student protests in 1977--ending with over 700 children being shot to death. The ending is very fitting and quite moving.
In general, I like the film. I cannot comment, however, on the accents done by Klein and Washington--I am an American who isn't attuned to such things. But, the acting is good, the film VERY compelling and it leaves you feeling raw at the end. My only complaint (other than paternalism) is the odd device of having Biko's character seeming to come to life during the film in flashback scenes or to dialog with Woods--even though he was 100% dead. Odd, that's for sure.
By the way, if you are a geek (and I guess this means I am), look for Nick Tate near the very end playing a pilot. He also played a pilot on "Space: 1999"--and was a regular on the series in case his face is familiar to you.
CRAIG ROBERTSON Fife, Scotland
There are so many possible areas where a film on apartheid could fall down, but all of these have been avoided. It would be easy to simply portray white people as the bad guys and black people as the good guys, but Attenborough has not done this. Sure, there were some white characters who seemed inherently evil, such as the Captain at the Soweto uprising, but to add extra dimensions to all the characters would make the film unbearably long. Some people complain about the length of the film as it is, but I think it needs the whole two and a half hours to tell the whole story, for it really is an incredible one.
The best scene in the film is that of Steve Biko's funeral. When the whole crowd begins to sing the South African national anthem, it is probably one of, if not the most moving scenes I have seen.
If you haven't seen this film already: watch it. It may not be comfortable viewing, but it's certainly worth it.