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Cry Freedom

Cry Freedom is a 1987 British drama lm directed by

Richard Attenborough, set in the late 1970s, during the
apartheid era of South Africa. The screenplay was written by John Briley based on a pair of books by journalist
Donald Woods. The lm centres on the real-life events
involving black activist Steve Biko and his friend Donald
Woods, who initially nds him destructive, and attempts
to understand his way of life. Denzel Washington stars
as Biko, while actor Kevin Kline portrays Woods. Cry
Freedom delves into the ideas of discrimination, political
corruption, and the repercussions of violence.

derstand Bikos point of view, a friendship slowly develops between them.

After being arrested for speaking at a gathering of black
South Africans outside of his banishment zone, Biko is arrested and interrogated by South African security forces.
Following this, he is brought to court in order to explain
his message directed toward the South African government. After he speaks eloquently in court and advocates
non-violence, the security ocers who interrogated him
visit his church and vandalize the property. Woods assures Biko that he will meet with a government ocial to
discuss the matter. Woods then meets with Jimmy Kruger
(John Thaw), the South African Minister of Justice in his
house in Pretoria in an attempt to prevent further abuse
by the security force. Kruger rst expresses discontent
over the actions of security force, however Woods is later
harassed by security forces at his home. The security
men that harass Woods insinuate that their orders to visit
Woods came directly from Kruger.

The lm was primarily shot on location in Zimbabwe

due to political turmoil in South Africa at the time of
production. As a lm showing mostly in limited cinematic release, it was nominated for multiple awards, including Academy Award nominations for Best Actor in
a Supporting Role, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song. It also won a number of awards including those
from the Berlin International Film Festival and the British
Academy Film Awards.
Later, Biko decides to travel to Cape Town to speak at
A joint collective eort to commit to the lms produc- a student-run meeting. En route, security forces stop his
tion was made by Universal Pictures and Marble Arch car and arrest him. He is held in harsh conditions and
Productions. It was commercially distributed by Univer- beaten, causing a severe brain-injury. A doctor recomsal Pictures theatrically, and by MCA Home Video for mends consulting a nearby specialist in order to best treat
home media. Cry Freedom premiered in theaters nation- his injuries, but the police refuse due to fear that he might
wide in the United States on 6 November 1987 grossing escape. (This would have been nearly impossible, consid$5,899,797 in domestic ticket receipts. The lm was at ering that the severity of his injuries left him with nearly
its widest release showing in 479 theaters nationwide. It complete inability to move on his own.) The security
was generally met with positive critical reviews before its forces instead decide to take him to a prison hospital in
Pretoria, around 700 miles away from Cape Town. He
initial screening in cinemas.
is thrown into the back of a prison van and driven on a
bumpy road, aggravating his brain injury and resulting in
his death.
1 Plot
Woods then works to expose the polices complicity in
Bikos death. He attempts to expose photographs of
Bikos body that contradicted police reports that he died
of a hunger strike, but he is prevented just before boarding a plane to leave and informed that he is now banned,
therefore not able to leave the country. Woods and his
family are targeted in a campaign of harassment by the
security police. He later decides to seek asylum in England to expose the corrupt and racist nature of the South
African authorities. After a long trek, Woods is eventually able to escape to the country of Lesotho, disguised
as a priest. His wife Wendy (Penelope Wilton) and their
family later join him, and are own to Botswana with
the aid of Bruce Haigh (John Hargreaves), a controversial
Australian diplomat who uses his diplomatic immunity to
help them. In the lm, however, Hargreaves character is

Following a news story depicting the demolition of a slum

in East London, South Africa, journalist Donald Woods
(Kevin Kline) seeks more information about the incident
and ventures o to meet black activist Steve Biko (Denzel Washington). Biko has been ocially banned by the
South African government and is not permitted to leave
his dened banning area at King Williams Town. Woods
is formally against Bikos banning, but remains critical of
his political views. Biko invites Woods to visit a black
township to see the impoverished conditions and to witness the eect of the government-imposed restrictions,
which make up the apartheid system. Woods begins to
agree with Bikos desire for a South Africa where blacks
have the same opportunities and freedoms as those enjoyed by the white population. As Woods comes to un1


an Australian journalist.

John Thaw - Jimmy Kruger, Minister of Justice

The lms epilogue displays a graphic detailing a long

list of anti-apartheid activists (including Biko), who died
under suspicious circumstances while imprisoned by the
government. Contrary to popular belief, the listings
dates in the graphic actually stopped in June 1987, a few
months before the lms release, as the Apartheid government stopped releasing the increasingly obviously false
ocial explanations for deaths in custody.

Michael Turner - Judge Bosho

Denzel Washington - Stephen Biko
Juanita Waterman - Ntsiki Biko, Steve Bikos wife
Kevin Kline - Donald Woods

Graeme Taylor - Dillon Woods, eldest son of Woods

Kate Hardie - Jane Woods, eldest daughter of
Woods family
Adam Stuart Walker - Duncan Woods, son of Donald and Wendy Woods
Hamish Stuart Walker - Gavin Woods, son of Donald and Wendy Woods
Spring Stuart Walker - Mary Woods, daughter of
Donald and Wendy Woods
Munyaradzi Kanaventi - Samora Biko
George Lovell - Nkosinathi Biko

Penelope Wilton - Wendy Woods

Kevin McNally - Ken, photographer at Daily Dispatch

3 Production

Timothy West - Capt. de Wet

3.1 Development

John Hargreaves - Bruce Haigh

Miles Anderson - Lemick
Morgan Sheppard as Policeman
Mawa Makondo - Jason
Wabei Slyolwe - Tenjy
Tommy Buson - Tami
Jim Findley - Peter Jones
Alec McCowen - British Acting High Commissioner
Zakes Mokae - Father Kani
John Matshikiza - Mapetla
Ian Richardson - State Prosecutor

Racial-demographic map of South Africa in the late 1970s.

The premise of Cry Freedom is based on the true story

of Steve Biko, the charismatic South African Black
Josette Simon - Dr. Mamphela Ramphele
Consciousness Movement leader who attempts to bring
Louis Mahoney - Lesotho Government Ocial
awareness to the injustice of Apartheid; and Donald
Woods, the liberal white editor of the Daily Dispatch
Joseph Marcell - Moses, Lesotho postal worker
newspaper who struggles to do the same after Biko is
Sophie Mgcina - Evalina, Wood familys domestic murdered. In 1972, Biko was one of the founders of
the Black Peoples Convention working on social upliftmaid
ment projects around Durban.[2] The BPC brought toJohn Paul - Wendys Stepfather
gether almost 70 dierent black consciousness groups
and associations, such as the South African Students
Gwen Watford - Wendys Mother
Movement (SASM), which played a signicant role in
Nick Tate - Ritchie private aviator who took Woods the 1976 uprisings, and the Black Workers Project which
supported black workers whose unions were not recogfamily from Lesotho to Botswana
nized under the Apartheid regime.[2] Bikos political acGarrick Hagon - McElrea, private aviator
tivities eventually drew the attention of the South African


Critical response

government which often harassed, arrested, and detained

him. These situations resulted in him being banned in
1973.[3] The banning restricted Biko from talking to more
than one person a time, in an attempt to suppress the
rising anti-apartheid political movement. Following a
violation of his banning, Biko was arrested and later
killed while in police custody. The circumstances leading to Bikos death caused worldwide anger, as he became a martyr and symbol of black resistance.[2] As a
result, the South African government banned a number
of individuals (including Donald Woods) and organizations, especially those closely associated with Biko.[2] The
United Nations Security Council responded swiftly to the
killing by later imposing an arms embargo against South
Africa.[2] After a period of routine harassment against
his family by the authorities, as well as fearing for his
life,[4] Woods ed the country after being placed under
house arrest by the South African government.[4] Woods
later wrote a book in 1978 entitled: Biko, exposing police
complicity in his death.[3] That book, along with Woods
autobiography Asking For Trouble, both being published
in the UK, became the basis for the lm.[3]



Principal lming took place primarily in the country of

Zimbabwe due to the tense political situation in South
Africa at the time of shooting. Other lming locations
included Kenya, as well as lm studios in Shepperton
and Middlesex, England.[5] The lm includes a dramatized depiction of the Soweto uprising which occurred
on 16 June 1976. Indiscriminate ring by police, killed
and injured hundreds of African school children during a
protest march.[3]



The original motion picture soundtrack for Cry Freedom was released by MCA Records on 25 October
1990.[6] It features songs composed by veteran musicians George Fenton, Jonas Gwangwa and Thuli Dumakude. At Bikos funeral they sing the hymn Nkosi
Sikelel' iAfrika. Jonathan Bates edited the lms music.[7]


Critical response

Among mainstream critics in the U.S., the lm received

mostly positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that
81% of 21 sampled critics gave the lm a positive review,
with an average score of 6.4 out of 10.[8]
Rita Kempley, writing in The Washington Post, said actor Washington gave a zealous, Oscar-caliber performance as this African messiah, who was recognized as

one of South Africas major political voices when he
was only 25.[10] Also writing for The Washington Post,
Desson Howe thought the lm could have reached further and felt the story centering around Woods character was its major aw. He saw director Attenboroughs aims as more academic and political than dramatic. Overall, he expressed his disappointment by exclaiming, In a country busier than Chile with oppression,
violence and subjugation, the story of Woods slow awakening is certainly not the most exciting, or revealing.[11]
Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times oered a mixed review calling it a sincere and valuable movie while also
exclaiming, Interesting things were happening, the performances were good and it is always absorbing to see
how other people live. But on a negative front, he noted
how the lm promises to be an honest account of the turmoil in South Africa but turns into a routine cli-hanger
about the editors ight across the border. Its sort of a liberal yuppie version of that Disney movie where the brave
East German family builds a hot-air balloon and oats to
Janet Maslin writing in The New York Times saw the
lm as bewildering at some points and ineectual at
others but pointed out that it isn't dull. Its frankly
grandiose style is transporting in its way, as is the story
itself, even in this watered-down form. She also complimented the African scenery, noting that "Cry Freedom can also be admired for Ronnie Taylors picturesque
cinematography.[9] The Variety Sta, felt Washington
did a remarkable job of transforming himself into the articulate and mesmerizing black nationalist leader, whose
refusal to keep silent led to his death in police custody and
a subsequent coverup. On Klines performance, they noticed how his low-key screen presence served him well
in his portrayal of the strong-willed but even-tempered
journalist.[13] Film critic Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the lm a thumbs up review calling it fresh
and a solid adventure while commenting its images do
remain in the mind ... I admire this lm very much.
He thought both Washington and Klines portrayals were
eective and quite good.[14] Similarly, Michael Price
writing in the Fort Worth Press viewed Cry Freedom
as often harrowing and naturalistic but ultimately selfimportant in its indictment of police-state politics.[15]
Mark Salisbury of TimeOut boasted on the lms merits by declaring the lead acting to be excellent and the
crowd scenes astonishing, while equally observing how
the climax was truly nerve-wracking. He called it an
implacable work of authority and compassion, Cry Freedom is political cinema at its best.[16] James Sanford
however, writing for the Kalamazoo Gazette, did not appreciate the lms enduring qualities, calling it a Hollywood whitewashing of a potentially explosive story.[17]
Rating the lm with 3 Stars, critic Leonard Maltin wrote
that the lm was a Sweeping and compassionate lm.
He did however note that the lm loses momentum as
it spends too much time on Kline and his familys escape


from South Africa. But in positive followup, he pointed

out that it cannily injects ashbacks of Biko to steer it
back on course.[18]



The lm was nominated and won several awards in 1987

88.[19][20] Among awards won were from the British
Academy of Film and Television Arts, the Berlin International Film Festival and the Political Film Society.


Box oce

6 Bibliography
Biko, Steve (1979). Steve Biko: Black Consciousness in South Africa; Bikos Last Public Statement and
Political Testament. Random House. ISBN 978-0394-72739-4.
Biko, Steve (2002). I Write What I Like: Selected
Writings. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780-226-04897-0.
Clarke, Anthony J.; Fiddes, Paul S., eds. (2005).
Flickering Images: Theology and Film in Dialogue.
Regents Study Guides 12. Macon, GA: Smyth &
Helwys Publishing. ISBN 1-57312-458-3.

The lm premiered in cinemas on 6 November 1987 in

limited release throughout the U.S.. During its opening weekend, the lm opened in a distant 19th place and
grossed $318,723 in business showing at 27 theaters.[28]
The lm Fatal Attraction opened in rst place with
$7,089,680 screening at 1,351 theaters.[1] The lms revenue dropped by 10.6% in its second week of release,
earning $284,853. For that particular weekend, the lm
fell to 25th place showing in 19 theaters. The lm The
Running Man, unseated Fatal Attraction to open in rst
place with $8,117,465 in box oce revenue showing at
1,692 theaters.[1][28]

Goodwin, June (1995).

Heart of Whiteness:
Afrikaners Face Black Rule In the New South Africa.
Scribner. ISBN 978-0-684-81365-3.

Cry Freedom had one week in wider release beginning

with the 1921 February weekend in 1988.[1] The lm
opened in 14th place showing at 479 theaters grossing
$802,235 in box oce business. The lm went on to
top out domestically at $5,899,797 in total ticket sales
through an 4-week theatrical run.[1] For 1987 as a whole,
the lm would cumulatively rank at a box oce performance position of 103.[1]

Magaziner, Daniel (2010). The Law and the

Prophets: Black Consciousness in South Africa,
1968-1977. Ohio University Press. ISBN 978-08214-1918-2.


Home media

Following its cinematic release in theaters, the lm was

released in VHS video format on 5 May 1998.[29] The
Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the lm was released on DVD in the United States on 23 February 1999.
Special features for the DVD include; production notes,
cast and lmmakers bios, lm highlights, web links, and
the theatrical trailer.[30] Currently, there is no scheduled
release date set for a future Blu-ray Disc version of the
lm, although it is available in other media formats such
as Video on demand.[31]

See also
White savior narrative in lm
1987 in lm

Harlan, Judith (2000). Mamphela Ramphele. The

Feminist Press at CUNY. ISBN 978-1-55861-2266.
Juckes, Tim (1995). Opposition in South Africa: The
Leadership of Z. K. Matthews, Nelson Mandela, and
Stephen Biko. Praeger Publishers. ISBN 978-0-27594811-5.

Malan, Rian (2000). My Traitors Heart: A South

African Exile Returns to Face His Country, His Tribe,
and His Conscience. Grove Press. ISBN 978-08021-3684-8.
Omand, Roger (1989). Steve Biko and Apartheid
(People & Issues). Hamish Hamilton Limited. ISBN
Paul, Samuel (2009). The Ubuntu God: Deconstructing a South African Narrative of Oppression.
Pickwick Publications. ISBN 978-1-55635-510-3.
Pityana, Barney (1992). Bounds of Possibility: The
Legacy of Steve Biko & Black Consciousness. D.
Philip. ISBN 978-1-85649-047-4.
Price, Linda (1992). Steve Biko (They Fought for
Freedom). Maskew Miller Longman. ISBN 978-0636-01660-6.
Tutu, Desmond (1996). The Rainbow People of
God. Image. ISBN 978-0-385-48374-2.
Van Wyk, Chris (2007). We Write What We Like:
Celebrating Steve Biko. Wits University Press. ISBN

Wa Thingo, Ngugi (2009). Something Torn and
New: An African Renaissance. Basic Civitas Books.
ISBN 978-0-465-00946-6.
Wiwa, Ken (2001). In the Shadow of a Saint: A
Sons Journey to Understand His Fathers Legacy.
Steerforth. ISBN 978-1-58642-025-3.
Woods, Donald (2004). Rainbow Nation Revisited: South Africas Decade of Democracy. Andre
Deutsch. ISBN 978-0-233-00052-7.

[19] Cry Freedom: Awards & Nominations. MSN Movies.

Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[20] Cry Freedom (1987)". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 201006-15.
[21] Nominees & Winners for the 60th Academy Awards. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[22] Cry Freedom. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[23] Cry Freedom. Berlin International Film Festival. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[24] Cry Freedom. Retrieved 2010-0615.


[1] Cry Freedom. Box Oce Mojo. Retrieved 2010-0615.

[2] Stephen Bantu (Steve) Biko. Retrieved
[3] Stephen Bantu Biko. South African History Online. Retrieved 2010-06-15.

[25] 31st Annual Grammy Award Highlights.

Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[26] Awards for 1987. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[27] Previous Winners. Political Film Society. Archived
from the original on 2009-10-28. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[28] Cry Freedom. The Numbers. Retrieved 2010-06-15.

[4] 1978: Newspaper editor ees South Africa. BBC. Retrieved 20 June 2010.

[29] Cry Freedom VHS Format. Retrieved


[5] Attenborough, Richard (Director). (1987). Cry Freedom

[Motion picture]. United States: Universal Pictures.

[30] Cry Freedom: On DVD. MSN Movies. Retrieved


[6] Cry Freedom: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.

Amazon. Retrieved 2010-06-15.

[31] Cry Freedom: VOD Format. Retrieved


[7] Cry Freedom. Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved 2010-06-15.

[8] Cry Freedom (1987). Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[9] Maslin, Janet (6 November 1987). Cry Freedom. The
New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[10] Kempley, Rita (6 November 1987). Cry Freedom. The
Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[11] Howe, Desson (6 November 1987). Cry Freedom. The
Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[12] Ebert, Roger (6 November 1987). Cry Freedom. Chicago
Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[13] Variety Sta (1 January 1987). Cry Freedom. Variety.
Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[14] Siskel, Gene (6 November 1987). Cry Freedom. At the
Movies. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[15] Price, Michael (6 November 1987). Cry Freedom. Fort
Worth Press. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[16] Salisbury, Mark (6 November 1987).
TimeOut. Retrieved 2010-06-15.

Cry Freedom.

[17] Sanford, James (6 November 1987). Cry Freedom.

Kalamazoo Gazette. Retrieved 2010-06-15.
[18] Maltin, Leonard (5 August 2008). Leonard Maltins 2009
Movie Guide. Signet. p. 301. ISBN 978-0-452-28978-9.

8 External links
Ocial website
Cry Freedom at the Internet Movie Database
Cry Freedom at AllMovie
Cry Freedom at the Movie Review Query Engine
Cry Freedom at Rotten Tomatoes
Cry Freedom at Box Oce Mojo
Cry Freedom lm trailer at YouTube


Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses



Cry Freedom Source: Contributors: Deb, SimonP, Skysmith, Dimadick,

Academic Challenger, David Gerard, Angmering, Andycjp, Lockeownzj00, Robert Brockway, OwenBlacker, Kuralyov, ScottyBoy900Q,
Jayjg, Discospinster, WegianWarrior, Darwinek, Erik, Cburnett, Panchurret, Kelisi, GregorB, Rjwilmsi, Harro5, Darguz Parsilvan, MarnetteD, Andreas S., Jay-W, Gwernol, YurikBot, RussBot, Briaboru, Quentin Smith, Muntuwandi, UDScott, Catamorphism, RFBailey,
Bigrich, Bibliomaniac15, SmackBot, Pgk, Michaelbeckham, Kintetsubualo, Jakz34, Bluebot, Zaian, Dr.Poison, JJW20084, Halaqah,
Xionbox, Dl2000, Benmay, Luigibob, Aapold, Lbr123, CmdrObot, ShelfSkewed, Cydebot, Treybien, Tec15, Alaibot, Gnfnrf, NorthernThunder, BetacommandBot, Thijs!bot, Marek69, Dawkeye, ABCxyz, MegX, Joshua, Easchi, PacicBoy, Avicennasis, Indon, Emcardi,
Grushenka, Mannerheim, Blupping, MartinBot, Rhino131, Wlodzimierz, Mike.lifeguard, PythonMonty504, Jojoster, Tai kit, Themoodyblue, Crazytrucker, Sparkymeg, Philip Trueman, OldZombie, Broadbot,, Sparkling Gray, Pllikk, SieBot, Nubiatech, A. Carty,
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