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Cry Freedom (1987) HD online

Cry Freedom (1987) HD online
Language: English
Category: Movie / Biography / Drama / History
Original Title: Cry Freedom
Director: Richard Attenborough
Writers: John Briley,Donald Woods
Released: 1987
Budget: $29,000,000
Duration: 2h 37min
Video type: Movie
Donald Woods is chief editor of the liberal newspaper Daily Dispatch in South Africa. He has written several editorials critical of the views of Steve Biko. 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 himself to illegally escape the country.


Cast overview, first billed only:
Josette Simon Josette Simon - Dr. Ramphele
Wabei Siyolwe Wabei Siyolwe - Tenjy
John Matshikiza John Matshikiza - Mapetla
Juanita Waterman Juanita Waterman - Ntsiki Biko
Evelyn Sithole Evelyn Sithole - Nurse at clinic
Xoliswa Sithole Xoliswa Sithole - Nurse at clinic
James Coine James Coine - Young boy
Kevin Kline Kevin Kline - Donald Woods
Kevin McNally Kevin McNally - Ken
Albert Ndinda Albert Ndinda - Alec
Andrew Whaley Andrew Whaley - Sub-Editor
Shelley Borkum Shelley Borkum - Woods' receptionist
Denzel Washington Denzel Washington - Steve Biko
Penelope Wilton Penelope Wilton - Wendy Woods
Kate Hardie Kate Hardie - Jane Woods

The filmmakers intended to shoot in South Africa as early as October 1986, with permission from select prominent figures, including Oliver Tambo and Winnie Mandela. After interviewing Mandela, the chief production crew was tailed around by the South African gestapo all the time, and was forced to leave South Africa. Also, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) deliberately misinterpreted Sir Richard Attenborough's decision to shoot the movie in October, and instead broadcast the "news" of his starting a revolution sponsored by Russia.

This movie was filmed in Zimbabwe, rather than South Africa, due to the political unrest and sensitivities that were present there at the time.

According to Sir Richard Attenborough, some cast members were South African exiles.

Denzel Washington was cast as Steve Biko after Sir Richard Attenborough saw him in an episode of St. Elsewhere (1982).

This movie takes place from November 24, 1975 to January 2, 1979.

Lew Wasserman, the head of MCA/Universal told Sir Richard Attenborough to "clear his shelves of his Oscars for Ghandi , as Cry Freedom was going sweep the board at the Academy awards" and indeed, early, pre-release test screenings resulted in many positive audience reactions. However, this movie proved to be a disaster at the U.S. box-office, and failed to be nominated in any of the major Oscar categories except Best Actor in a Supporting Role, for Denzel Washington.

Stephen Biko (Denzel Washington) had been the subject of a television documentary a decade earlier. This was on an episode of World in Action (1963) titled "The Life and Death of Steve Biko", which was broadcast on October 3, 1977.

The closing credits declare that this movie was "filmed principally in the Republic of Zimbabwe, and completed in Kenya, the United Kingdom, and at Lee International Film Studios Ltd., Shepparton, England, with post-production at Twickenham Studios, Middlesex, England".

This movie was nominated for three Academy Awards, two of them for Best Music, Best Music Score and Best Original Song ("Cry Freedom"), and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Denzel Washington, but the movie failed to win an Oscar in any of these categories.

Gerald Sim (Police doctor) was the brother-in-law of Director Sir Richard Attenborough.

One of a mini-cycle of late 1980s anti-Apartheid movies. The others being A World Apart (1988) and A Dry White Season (1989). The Power of One (1992) followed in the early 1990s.

This movie was based on two books by Donald Woods, who was played in the movie by Kevin Kline. These are "Biko" (1978) and "Asking for Trouble: The Autobiography of a Banned Journalist" (1981).

The seventh of only twelve theatrical movies directed by Sir Richard Attenborough.

The opening prologue states: "With the exception of two characters, whose identity has been concealed to ensure their safety, all the people depicted in this film are real, and all the events true."

The opening title card reads: "24th November 1975: Crossroads Settlement, Cape Province, Republic of South Africa."

The acronym "B.P.C." stood for "Black People Convention".

According to the Turner Classic Movies website, "the film was released in South Africa, to a selected audience."

English actor John Thaw's previous movie had been another Africa set movie Gräset sjunger (1981).

First theatrical movie produced by a major Hollywood studio of renowned Australian actor John Hargreaves.

This movie is often shown in two eighty-minute parts, allowing for a convenient intermission in theaters, and for the two parts to be shown on multiple nights on television.

The movie features two actors who won Best Actor in a Supporting Role Academy Awards during the 1980s. Denzel Washington won for Glory (1989), while Kevin Kline won for A Fish Called Wanda (1988). Washington later won a Best Actor Oscar for Treeningpäev (2001), while this movie garnered Washington his first Academy Award nomination, which was for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

The epilogue during the closing credits states: "'Biko' was published in 1978. Its author, Donald Woods, and his wife, Wendy Woods, served as principal consultants to this film."

Sir Richard Attenborough, Denzel Washington (Stephen Biko), Kevin Kline (Donald Woods), and Alec McCowen (Acting High Commissioner) appeared in Shakespearean movies directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh. McCowen played the Bishop of Ely in Henry V (1989), Washington played Don Pedro in Palju kära ei millestki (1993), Attenborough played the English Ambassador in Hamlet (1996), and Kline played Jacques in As You Like It (2006).

This movie was selected as one of the Top Ten Films of the Year, in 1987 by the U.S.'s National Board of Review.

The car that takes Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) to the Lesotho border bridge is a beat-up 1960 Chevrolet Biscayne convertible.

This movie was part of a cycle of movies, made during the 1980s, that featured journalists covering war. The others being Salvador (1986), Under Fire (1983), Die Fälschung (1981), Deadline (1987), The Killing Fields (1984), and The Year of Living Dangerously (1982).

Despite the fact that this was filmed in Super 35, "Filmed in Panavision" is listed in the end credits.

Reviews: [25]

  • avatar


    I show this film to university students in speech and media law because its lessons are timeless: Why speaking out against injustice is important and can bring about the changes sought by the oppressed. Why freedom of the press and freedom of speech are essential to democracy. This is a must-see story of how apartheid was brought to the attention of the world through the activism of Steven Biko and the journalism of Donald Woods. It also gives an important lesson of free speech: "You can blow out a candle, but you can't blow out a fire. Once the flame begins to catch, the wind will blow it higher." (From Biko by Peter Gabriel, on Shaking the Tree).
  • avatar

    Hǻrley Quinn

    Billed as the story of Steve Biko -- played excellently by Denzel Washington, as you'd expect -- this was actually more the story of Donald Woods, played by Kevin Kline.

    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.
  • avatar


    This film is, quite simply, brilliant. The cinematography is good, the acting superb and the story absolutely breathtaking. This is the story of Donald Woods, a white South African who thought himself a liberal until he found out the reality of apartheid. Kevin Kline is completely convincing - so much so that when Donald Woods himself appeared on TV some years later, I recognised him from Kline's portrayal. Denzel Washington also turns in a masterful performance, as ever.

    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.
  • avatar


    I think the context of the story has been covered by other posters so I would just like to write about the impact this film had on me.

    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.
  • avatar


    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.
  • avatar


    As anyone old enough knows, South Africa long suffered under the vile, racist oppression of apartheid, which completely subjugated the black population. One of the most famous anti-apartheid activists was Steve Biko, who was murdered in jail. Following the murder, reporter Donald Woods sought to get Biko's message out to the world.

    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.
  • avatar


    I saw the film for the first time in 1987, when it came out. I was touched by this story and I began being interested in other Sir Attenborough movies.

    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.
  • avatar


    On watching this movie as part of background research for my GCSE History I was moved enough to search for details on it. To my horror the user known as Howlin Wolf harshly described the movie as 'mostly 2 and a half hours of boredom punctuated by occasional flickers of interest when Kline or Washington were given a passionate monologue to deliver'. How can a person, after watching the story of thousands of people in South Africa at the time some up such a excellent movie in this way?

    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.
  • avatar


    Cry Freedom was such a touching, unforgettable film. The acting was amazing, and they picked the perfect cast. I watched this at my school last year for the first time, and the first scene made me want to cry! Cry Freedom made me laugh, cry, confused, and made me just want to scream at those people who treated blacks cruelly! I recommend you rent this movie. 10/10
  • avatar


    Richard Attenborough is a director whose name is synonymous with the Academy Award winning 'Gandhi', back in '83. I didn't know of any other work of his till i recently came across 'Cry Freedom', released back in 1987. While it may not have been as popular as his Gandhi, it is every bit as gripping, if not more, and was released when South Africa still had not got rid of the shackles of apartheid. While most movies on social issues come out after the event had happened, i guess this one released during the time.

    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.
  • avatar


    An overlong, but compelling retelling of the friendship between civil rights leader Steve Biko and Donald Woods. The first half of the film is the strongest where we see the bond formed between the two men, and how they help each other out, but the second half isn't as strong, due to the elimination of the Biko character. Still, its a compelling film with great performances by Kline and Washington, in the film that put the latter on the map. Washington was also was nominated for best supporting actor for the first time. Overall, a well made film that could have been trimmed down a bit. 7/10.____________________________________
  • avatar


    Very rarely does Denzil Washington make a bad movie and come to think of it that goes for Kevin Kline and in this case , this must count as one of their best films. It is more about of film about how strong friendship can more than the story of Steve Biko although we do get an insight into what the man was like and how far the reporter and friend Donald Woods went to preserve the mans name and let the world know what a corrupt , putrid society South Africa was. The Direction is outstanding from David Attenborough as it was for Gandhi although if there is any critisism to be aimed it could be at the length of the film. Two and a half hours is a long time to sit through a historic movie .What is amazing is how he manages to control all the extras. Thousands of people in both films. This film really does open your eyes to what happened before the break up of Aparthiet and you cannot fail to moved by it. 8 out of 10.
  • avatar


    It's sad to view this film now that we know how the ANC got shafted by international capitalism. Biko died for nothing much. Woods achieved little. Yes, outright apartheid was abolished, but all the apparatus of power was reserved by the minority whites, leaving the ANC government more or less impotent. As Naomi Klein writes in The Shock Doctrine, in the talks between the black and white leaderships "the deKlerk government had a twofold strategy. First drawing on the ascendant Washington Consensus that there was no only one way to run an economy, it portrayed key sectors of economic decision making --- such as trade policy and the central bank --- as "technical" or "adminsitrative". Then it used a wide range of new policy tools --- international trade agreements, innovations in constitutional law and structural adjustment programs --- to hand control of those power centres to supposedly impartial experts, economists and officials from the IMF, the World Bank, the GATT and the National Party --- anyone except the liberation fighters from the ANC." The statistical results are horrifying, with not much change accomplished, and AIDS flourishing. Viewing Cry Freedom in this light is deeply ironic --- actually tragic. The ANC has transformed itself from being the solution to being the primary problem.
  • avatar

    ᵀᴴᴱ ᴼᴿᴵᴳᴵᴻᴬᴸ

    This is an absolutely incredible film. It shows South African racism from the perspective of the victims, and provokes a feeling of anti-racism in everyone who sees it. It is the best historic film I have ever seen.
  • avatar


    Richard Attenborough is one storyteller. 'Gandhi' & 'Chaplin' are widely regarded & respected to this date. 'Cry Freedom', according to me, is his finest work since 'Gandhi'. This British drama takes place in a time of violence, and is executed with flourish. Even the performances are top-notch!

    '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!
  • avatar


    What a movie! I never imagined Richard Attenborough could have such a movie in him. Gandhi has always left me indifferent, apart from Ben Kingsley's performance, and I never considered Attenborough a particularly good filmmaker. But Cry Freedom held my interest like few movies have in recent times. It's an exciting, mesmerizing political movie with great performances by Kevin Kline and a young Denzel Washington.

    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.
  • avatar

    Arabella V.

    What a brilliant film. I will admit it is very ambitious, with the subject matter. At a little over two and a half hours, it is a very long film too. But neither of these pointers are flaws in any way. Cry Freedom, despite the minor flaws it may have, is a powerful, moving and compelling film about the story of the black activist Steve Biko in his struggles to awaken South Africa to the horrors of the apartheid. It is true, that the first half is stronger than the second in terms of emotional impact. People have also complained that the film suffers from too much Woods not enough Biko. I may be wrong, but although it is Biko's story, it is told in the perspective of Woods, so Woods is an important character in conveying Biko's story to the world.

    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
  • avatar


    'Cry Freedom' is a movie about how far people will go to find the truth.

    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.
  • avatar


    I was electrified when I first saw this in 1983 or 1984. Steven Biko is gone half way through the film but the resonance of his courage and wisdom is not forgotten. I didn't when finally in South Africa in 1993. It is also largely a story about friendship and loyalty. When I was in South Africa and heard the audience at a dance recital in Natal sing Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika, my hair stood on its ends. There is a lot to learn from this story for all peoples.
  • avatar

    Captain America

    It's a shame that this piece of work wasn't acknowledged as a piece of work. It has everything a historical film must have: a serious historical research, outstanding performances of every actor involved and a discrete but great direction.

    When I saw the movie I knew it should be a prototype for every biographical movie.
  • avatar


    When this film appeared in 1987, it was considered very liberal and enlightened. However, when seen today, I could easily see someone criticizing the film for being paternalistic--and the same could be said for films like "A Dry White Season" and even the recent "Bang Bang Club" (made in South Africa itself only two years ago). After all, when Hollywood did a film about the apartheid era, it seemed to always feature a white guy in the lead and in the films, whites seemed to need to help rescue the poor, oppressed blacks--and even "Bang Bang Club" to a degree. While the stories ARE true, framing the stories these ways is a bit sad and I would love to see films that were about the black leaders in the fight for freedom. Despite this legitimate complaint, the film should not be written off, as it's an important and true story. And, for that matter, it's quite compelling.

    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.
  • avatar


    This film moved me beyond comprehension, it is and will remain my favourite film of all time, mainly because it has almost every emotion all rolled into its 157 minutes. What is the hardest part for me to take is that whenever i want to hear the amazing music and songs from the film, I have to put it into my DVD player, so I was wondering if anyone anywhere knows who sings the songs in the film and where they can be found, as I have looked everywhere I can think sporadically over the past 5 years. My favourite quote from the film is when in court the advocate says "But your own words ask for direct confrontation, isn't that a direct call for violence?" Biko replies "Well you and I are in confrontation now, but I see no violence!!"

    CRAIG ROBERTSON Fife, Scotland
  • avatar


    This is a film that everyone should watch. Quite apart from raising hugely important points (while South Africa is on the road to recovery there are still many countries in similar situations now), it is superbly directed while Denzel Washington gives, in my opinion, the best performance in his career so far. Kline also gives a good performance, although perhaps not as stunning as Washington's. John Thaw also puts in a good turn as the Chief of Police.

    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.
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    The performance of every actor and actress (in the film) are excellently NATURAL which is what movie acting should be; and the directing skill is so brilliantly handled on every details that I am never tired of seeing it over and over again. However, I am rather surprised to see that this film is not included in some of the actors' and director, Attenborough's credits that puzzles me: aren't they proud of making a claim that they have made such excellent, long lasting film for the audience? I am hoping I would get some answers to my puzzles from some one (possibly one of the "knowledgeable" personnel (insider) of the film.
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    "Cry Freedom" is not just a movie. It is a historical account, heroic story, and insight into the cultural background of a major event in history. Not only does Denzel Washington do a terrific job of impersonating a motivating, determined hero, Steve Biko, but he delivers a message to the public about the horrors of South Arfrican Apartheid. The story of Biko, an influential leader, and his main "influencee", Donald Woods, is a heartbreaking one. But, the ultimate success of his life can go beyond the atrocities committed in South Africa. "Cry Freedom" manages to communicate to its audience the optimistic aspect of the seemingly disturbing plot. It is because of great films like this one, that the public can become educated on terrible events in history, great leaders who sought to end them, and how we can never allow them to happen in the future. Because of this importance, "Cry Freedom" is an amazing film that should be seen by all.