Alan Paton's classic novel about two fathers coming to terms with personal loss and the emotional scars inflicted on South Africa during the era of apartheid was brought to the screen for a second time with this adaptation, the first major film produced in South Africa after Nelson Mandela's election ended mandatory white rule in that nation. Rev. Stephen Kumalo (James Earl Jones) is a minister from a poverty-stricken farming community who travels to Johannesburg for the first time in search of his son Absalom (Eric Miyeni), who moved to the city some time back and has gone missing. Kumalo regards the big city as a den of iniquity, and his low expectations are not betrayed; he is robbed and beaten shortly after he arrives, and when he visits his brother John (Charles S. Dutton), he discovers that Absalom has become a petty thief with a pregnant girlfriend, his sister Gertrude (Dambisa Kente) is a prostitute, and John has renounced his faith in God and advocates the violent overthrow of South Africa's white leadership. James Jarvis (Richard Harris) -- a wealthy white landowner from the same part of the country as Kumalo -- has also arrived in Johannesburg, also with sad personal business to attend to; his son, a well-liked activist for the rights of the city's black majority population, was killed during a robbery.
by Mark Deming synopsis