Cry Freedom (1987)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Political Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 6, 1987 (USA)  |   Run Time - 157 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Karl Williams

Actor and director Richard Attenborough attempted to recreate the phenomenal success of his multiple Oscar-winning Gandhi (1982) with another socially conscious drama, Cry Freedom (1987). The film reunited many behind-the-scenes players from Gandhi, including the same writer, cinematographer, costume designer, and composer. Cry Freedom also mimicked the style and many of the liberal themes of Attenborough's earlier film. Despite these elements, a positive critical reception, and the fact that South African apartheid was an explosive geopolitical issue of the late eighties, Cry Freedom failed to repeat the box office triumph of Gandhi. The filmmakers' decision to make real-life white journalist Don Woods (played in the film by Kevin Kline) the main character, reducing to a supporting role the more historically important figure of anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko (played by Denzel Washington), created some controversy and may have kept audiences away. Nevertheless, Washington received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Biko. The actor went on to win in the same category two years later for Glory (1989).