"Cry Freedom" begins with the story of a friendship between a white liberal
South African and an idealistic young black who later dies at the hands of South
African police. But the black leader is buried at the movie's halfway point, and
the rest of the story centers on the editor's desire to escape from South Africa
and publish his books.
This movie promises to be an honest account of the turmoil in South Africa and a
story of a black activist, but it turns into a usual cliffhanger about the
editor's flight across the border. In my view, whites occupy most of the
foreground and establish terms of discussion, which the majority of blacks
remain in the shadow, half-seen presence in the background. A specific example
of this occurrence is at the soccer match where Steve and Ken hear Biko argue
for a black culture. Although we hear Biko preach to his fellow people, most
parts of these scenes we encounter Steve and Ken comparing opinions, while there
is no discussion between the black people.
"Cry Freedom" corrodes from exploring Biko and South Africa and turns into
another 'escape' movie. The first half of the film focuses on the power of
Biko's charismatic personality as Biko leads Woods to understand for the first
time the harsh realities blacks face as third citizens. The film focuses us on
educating and informing the audience about the problems that occur in South
Africa; this is done via Biko’s words. At the same time, Biko educates Wood's
about the Apartheid in South Africa, he familiarize Wood’s to the reality of the
system, which supports him. It is pointed out in the black township the stark
contrast between Wood's luxurious lifestyle and the poverty of the blacks. Steve
Biko is on a quest to hold up hope that blacks and whites can work together and
change South Africa. This is the main focus of the film’s purpose and should
As the movie progresses, no real attempt is to show daily life in Biko's world,
although we move into Wood's home, meet his wife, children, maid and his dog,
and share his daily routine. This concept is explored when Wood’s is sitting by
his inviting pool surrounded by the manicured lawns as his maid receives him the
phone. There is no similar attempt to portray Biko's daily reality. Biko shows
Woods around his black township at night. Biko demonstrates to Wood’s how a
black person can still have fun even in the kind of environment they live in.
Biko is seen primarily through the eyes of Woods. There aren't many scenes in
which we see Biko without Woods, and fewer still in which his friendship with
Woods isn't the misleading subject of the scene. From here on, the movie centers
on Woods - at once its major flaw. When Biko dies halfway through so does the
Unfortunately, Biko's death comes almost exactly halfway through the film; in
order to make the film palatable to Westerners, which is to say white audiences;
It is this point of the film that it concentrates on the Wood's family as they
flee South Africa. The Woods family's subsequent flight from South Africa
becomes the turning point of the movie. From this point on, "Cry Freedom" is
not about Biko, it' about Wood's, describing how his thinking changed by Biko,
how he witnessed black life at first hand even though he had considered himself
as a "white liberal". Wood’s is more or less a messenger for Western audiences;
he is the central reminder of the topic about the Apartheid in South Africa.
It’s also about Wood’s how, after he was placed under house arrest by the
Government and how he planned his escape. Wood's becomes frightened of the
Government who once supported him and now is dangerous to him and his family.
Wood’s is determined to publish Biko's stories. While we miss Biko's spirit, we
are involved in the Wood's adventure. The family eventually settled in England,
where Donald Woods published his two books, "Biko" and "Asking for Trouble" on
which the film is based.
Cry Freedom quickly degenerates from an exploration of Biko and South Africa
into another 'escape' movie. From the start of the movie we are exploring Biko
and his poor lifestyle. In the second half of the movie, it takes us into a
clock-and-dagger scenario. This includes Wood's masquerade as a Catholic priest,
his phony passport and his attempt to fool South African border officials.
The exploration of Biko and South Africa start off with a high but ends with a