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The Power of One (1992)

PG-13 | | Drama, Sport | 27 March 1992 (USA)
1:41 | Trailer
An English boy, living in Africa during World War II, through his boxing prowess, becomes a symbol of hope, in a time of war.


John G. Avildsen


Bryce Courtenay (novel), Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay)
1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Nomadlozi Kubheka Nomadlozi Kubheka ... Nanny
Agatha Hurle Agatha Hurle ... Midwife
Nigel Ivy Nigel Ivy ... P.K. Newborn
Tracy Brooks Swope ... Mother
Brendan Deary Brendan Deary ... P.K. Infant
Winston Mangwarara Winston Mangwarara ... Tonderai Infant
Guy Witcher ... P.K. Age 7
Tonderai Masenda Tonderai Masenda ... Tonderai
Cecil Zilla Mamanzi Cecil Zilla Mamanzi ... Ranch Foreman
John Turner ... Afrikaner Minister
Robbie Bulloch Robbie Bulloch ... Jaapie Botha
Gordon Arnell Gordon Arnell ... Minister at Mother's Funeral
Jeremiah Mnisi Jeremiah Mnisi ... Dabula Manzi
Armin Mueller-Stahl ... Doc
Paul Tingay Paul Tingay ... Grandfather


The Power of One is an intriguing story of a young English boy named Peekay and his passion for changing the world. Growing up he suffered as the only English boy in an Afrikaans school. Soon orphaned, he was placed in the care of a German national named Professor von Vollensteen (a.k.a. "Doc"), a friend of his grandfather. Doc develops Peekay's piano talent and Peekay becomes "assistant gardener" in Doc's cactus garden. It is not long after WWII begins that Doc is placed in prison for failure to register with the English government as a foreigner. Peekay makes frequent visits and meets Geel Piet, an inmate, who teaches him to box. Geel Piet spreads the myth of the Rainmaker, the one who brings peace to all of the tribes. Peekay is cast in the light of this myth. After the war Peekay attends an English private school where he continues to box. He meets a young girl, Maria, with whom he falls in love. Her father, Professor Daniel Marais, is a leader of the Nationalist Party of South ... Written by Greg Brunson <gmbtiger@aol.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He's had to fight all his life. Now he's fighting for theirs. See more »


Drama | Sport

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some areas of strong violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »



Australia | France | USA



Release Date:

27 March 1992 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

O Poder de um Jovem See more »

Filming Locations:

UK See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$684,358, 29 March 1992

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Five actors portrayed the character of P.K. (a.k.a. Peekay, a.k.a. P.K. Newborn, a.k.a. Peter Philip Kenneth-Keith) at five different ages: Brendan Deary as an infant, Guy Witcher at age seven, Simon Fenton at age twelve, Stephen Dorff at age eighteen, and Nigel Ivy as P.K. Newborn. The character is apparently not known as Peter Philip Kenneth-Keith in the source novel by Bryce Courtenay. See more »


When PK's character goes from 12 to 18 years old, the caption is "Johannesburg 1948". After the classroom scene and as PK and Morrie are walking past the fountain after the art lesson, Morrie says, "...as the Queen has for boules..." In 1948, George VI was the monarch. Elizabeth II, his daughter, did not ascend to the throne until 1952, four years later. However, the wife of a British King is known as the "Queen". Therefore, Morrie may have been referring to George VI's wife, Queen Elizabeth (later known as "The Queen Mother" after her daughter ascended to the throne). See more »


[first lines]
Title Card: In the 1680s, Dutch, French and Germans fled religious persecution in Europe and settled in Southern Africa. They called themselves the Afrikaners. White Africans. / For the next 250 years, the British Empire fought the Afrikaners for control of the land, the gold and 20 million Native Africans. / In 1948, a conservative Afrikaner government was voted into power. A system of segregation first introduced by the English was declared the law of the land. / The English never gave the ...
See more »


Referenced in The Lion King (1994) See more »


Concerto for the Southland
Written by Johnny Clegg
See more »

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User Reviews

One of the Better films of the 90's
29 July 2004 | by aimless-46See all my reviews

Caution-Minor Spoilers ahead: John Avildsen could be considered the most interesting director of his generation if only for the huge range of quality among his films and the fact these differences seem to have little correlation with his level of experience. His best films include Joe (one of his first efforts), Rocky (several years later), and this film (late in his career). Mixed in between these high points are some moderate successes (Lean on Me and Save the Tiger) and some total dogs (Neighbors, The Karate Kid, WW and the Dixie Dance Kings, and Rocky V). It is hard to believe that it was same person, you either have to credit Avildsen with the 'courage' to take on even the most hopeless of scripts or with such financial desperation that he had to take anything that came his way.

With Avildsen the 'courage' angle (willing to attempt something without fear of failure and able to bounce back after failure) is the more likely, since courage is the recurring theme of most of his films: the solitary individual pitted against the oppressive and dehumanizing forces of the 'status quo'.

This is certainly true of 'The Power of One'. Bryce Courteney's book had that same theme and the film adaptation preserved it. Critics of the adaptation (and lovers of the book) complain that this is about the only thing that Avildsen preserved. While they are technically correct, their complaints are rather silly because the book(s) were basically un-filmable (at least commercially) and film is a different medium making comparison illogical anyway. While all adaptations contain many elements of a story, there will be omissions and changes-particularly with a novel like Courteney's. Those who complain that this adaptation was incomplete and inaccurate probably complained that 'Clueless' was an inaccurate adaptation of Jane Austin's 'Emma'. The point is that a movie is a movie and a book is a book. Actually this film was a blending of Courteney's story with Stephen Covey's 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People' with the main character having to move from dependence to independence (private victory) before he can become effectively interdependent (public victory) and influence others. As someone said earlier, 'The Power Of One', despite ending with a statement proposing a bland union of absolute conviction, is not expansive but rather interior in its meaning. And this is indeed the paradox of art, when experiencing something the details are rapidly subsumed (as in subjective).

This is a more political story than the novel but the political elements are superficial and simplistic. And the premise of a white boy leading a whole race of people to their salvation is a bit over the top, an unnecessary and forced way of extending Courteney's individual inner power to a collective unity. But such is the nature of film, where pacing considerations and time constraints make reliance on stereotypes necessary to economically convey a message. And in a sweeping historical story like this there is no way to provide a great deal of depth to the characters. But Avildsen does a good job with his main character, a consistent style of frequent reaction shots of PK remind the viewer that the film is entirely his point-of-view and his impressions as he grows up. The solitary individual pitted against an oppressive power structure, his 'power of one' being an ability to experience personal tragedy/inhumanity and yet retain his humanness, as a child he learns to not let fear restrict the experience of living.

What makes the film good is that while Avildsen's political message is heavy-handed and stereotyped, he makes good use of the time this buys him for other story elements. Some have asked why Fay Masterson's 'Maria' character was added to the screenplay (Maria was not in Courteney's novel). This was a special subtle touch by Avildsen. Masterson is as perfect looking as Nicole Kidman but somehow much more real. Two of the best visual scenes in the film revolve around her character. The first is PK's initial glimpse of Maria in the audience at his championship fight (homage to Rocky's search for Adrian in the crowd). It is visually amazing-Masterson has an angelic glow in this shot which makes PK's instant enthrallment and improbable pursuit seem quite believable. And Masterson handles the subtle acting requirements of this difficult role extremely well, representing those Afrikaners who were able to overcome their childhood indoctrination, see their racist institutions for what they were, and work for change. The other key scene is Maria's funeral where Avildsen shows her father's sudden grasp of what a special person she was, and special for the very qualities he tried to suppress in her while she was still alive. This scene could have been clumsy and silly but Avildsen stages it with such subtlety that we accept that her father has been inspired to work for reform. Film is such a powerful medium because when done correctly it can visually tell a story in a few seconds more convincingly than in a hundred pages of text.

Bottom line this is not a perfect movie nor is it an accurate adaptation of the book. It is a very entertaining film more 'inspired' by the book than adapted from it. It has great visuals of the veldt and has wonderful African music. The historical subject is worth telling and the individual themes of justice, hope, and courage offer a very positive message. 7 out of 10

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