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South African church minister Steven Kumalo is summoned from his village to Johannesburg. There he finds that his son Absolom has been jailed in connection with a robbery in which a white man was killed. The father of the white man, James Jarvis, is a supporter of apartheid, the separation of the races which is the law of South Africa. When they encounter each other, both Kumalo and Jarvis come to unexpected realizations not only about their sons, but about the nature of their own humanity.Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
The first feature film shot on-location in post-Apartheid South Africa, after Nelson Mandela was elected President in 1994. Composer John Barry dedicated the score to Mandela in the end credits. See more »
Not as meaningful as the book but works OK as a human story of individual strength
Rev Kumalo receives a letter from Johannesburg telling him that his sister, who went there many years ago to look for her husband, is very sick and that he should come immediately. When he arrives he is robbed but finds a home with the sender of the letter. His sister is working as a prostitute in a brothel in town and his quest to help her soon turns to finding his brother and then his own son. However events will bring the nature of the racial divide into full focus.
It has been many years since I read the book but I always remember it as it was quite thought provoking bringing in wider issues into the framework of the main story. I was surprised to find this version made by Disney and was prepared for almost a child's film, happily I was wrong. The plot is quite well developed in terms of the central story and, although I wasn't moved to the point of tears, I did find it pretty involving and moving to some degree. What it failed to do though was bring out wider issues from the period and setting. True it let us see the places and the divide but there was no subtext only visual images.
The direction is good whether it is the outdoors, a rain swept church or a small indoors room, it all has a good sense of place and time. The cast is all pretty good. Jones is the strongest and acts as the moral backbone of the story he is seeing these things for the first time just like we are as an audience. The late Richard Harris is also good but has less screen time. I think his character needed more as it is he who has the biggest journey of discovery where Kumalo's is physical, his is more into himself and learning to overcome his feelings. The South African cast are mainly very good and give good support the only real flaw was that I wasn't totally convinced that Kumalo's relatives were really his relatives only Dutton managed to bring out an emotional history and have a sort of bond with Jones, the rest were a little too distant.
Overall this is a good version of the book albeit with the focus more on the core narrative than other themes. The leads are good and it is an involving story. Not fantastic but a good drama about one man's strength.
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