THE mantle of greatness does not fall lightly onto the heroes of Sir Richard Attenborough's epic film biographies. It is placed there by a heavy hand. A great statesman, as in the director's ''Gandhi'' or his new ''Cry Freedom,'' about the murdered South African leader Stephen Biko, is apt to be bathed in beatific light as he delivers important speeches, and to be making speeches even when he talks with intimate friends. He will be surrounded by acolytes, who often nod their approval as one. When he moves the masses, thousands of people will appear on screen. And he will speak to them in clear, helpful, eminently instructive tones. Everyone else in the film will speak that way, too.
These are fine methods for delivering a civics lesson, which to some extent is what the Attenborough approach is all about. But for a film that aspires to entertain as well as educate, they are less helpful. Without forgetting how valuable it is that someone has had the courage to make serious and sincere films about important subjects, it must be noted that good intentions aren't everything. Although ''Cry Freedom'' has sweeping, scenic good looks and two fine performances to recommend it, not to mention the weight of moral decency on its side, what comes through most strongly is the ponderousness of the Attenborough style.
''Cry Freedom'' has other problems as well, problems that arise from the fact that there is no Gandhi at its center. In ''Gandhi,'' the director had a wonderfully irascible and inspiring character with which to work, a long and fascinating story to tell, and a wealth of unforgettable aphorisms with which to pepper the dialogue. Stephen Biko was a less flamboyant kind of hero, more the dedicated political theorist and less the colorful eccentric. Much less is known about him. And tragically, his story was a great deal shorter.
Biko's terrible death in 1977, at age 30, at the hands of South Africa's Security Police (who at first tried to maintain that Biko had willfully starved to death or died of self-inflicted head wounds, until an inquest determined otherwise), was in some ways the most important event of his career, since it so outraged and galvanized many of his countrymen. Yet ''Cry Freedom'' makes relatively little of this, and in fact makes relatively little of Steve Biko himself, allowing him to disappear before the film is even half over. The rest of the time, it chooses to concentrate on Donald Woods, the newspaper editor who was Biko's close friend and bravely defied South African authorities on Biko's behalf. In theory, shifting the focus makes some sense, since the Biko story is sketchy and downbeat, the Woods part more conventionally dramatic. In fact, it is most unfortunate that this film, with its potential for focusing worldwide attention on the plight of black South Africans, should concentrate its energies on a white man.
Oddly enough, there is a stronger sense of South African racism in the opening part of ''Gandhi,'' with the great statesman then a young Indian lawyer who is astounded and indignant at his treatment by a white train conductor, than there is in ''Cry Freedom.'' The new film, for reasons that are incomprehensible, soft-pedals the very issue it is nominally about. Steve Biko, played with great magnetism and given an air of true heroism by Denzel Washington (though the role is badly underdeveloped in John Briley's screenplay), talks at length about white oppression, as do his supporters. Donald Woods, played by Kevin Kline as a dashing, debonair liberal who evolves ever-so-gradually into an adventurer, talks about it, too. But talking is most of what happens here, since the Attenborough approach makes no distinction between merely stating an idea and demonstrating one through dramatic action.Continue reading the main story
Cry Freedom Essay
1466 Words6 Pages
This essay examines the film “Cry Freedom”, set in the late 1970s, which was directed by Sir Richard Attenborough in 1987. The film was based on the true story written by Donald Wood, also one of the main characters in the film. The analysis will focus on the way the movie critically evaluates the political ideology that dominates the apartheid in South Africa. The essay will discuss the character’s and film's attitude towards the white people and black people and how certain characters respond to, and are shaped by, the historic and economic events of that time. It will also analyse the way Attenborough wanted to position his audience and how successful he was in doing so.
The film was set in South Africa under the apartheid government,…show more content…
Person can only fight for their rights when they have these basic necessities. In the film the severe poverty and denial of human rights that the black population suffered was evident to white journalist, Donald Woods when he was invited by Steve Biko to view the harsh conditions of a black township. In the film, Steve Biko, a black man and anti-apartheid activist, became a leader for the black community. He inevitably became an activist and leader for his community and many others through his ability to unite people and make them see his ideologies and point of view. He showed the black people the hardship they were enduring and a solution. Attenborough portrayed Biko as heroic man who realised the inequalities his people were suffering and attempted to change it. He refused to accept the apartheid law and throughout the film disobeyed it. One example of when he disobeyed the apartheid was when he visited a white area at night. This disobedience is made evident when Donald Woods asked him, “What are you doing at this time in your banning area?"
To which Biko replies, “This is my country and I will go where ever I want.”
Banning was an efficient tool used by the government to suppress opposition. A person who has been banned cannot make public speeches, cannot ride public transport, and cannot even go outside. Only one person could visit Biko at one time in his room. However, he