Cry The Beloved Country
Set in South Africa in the 1940’s, this film is based on the novel by Alan Paton. A Christian Zulu pastor, Stephen Kumalo (James Earl Jones), receives word that his sister Gertrude has become ill in Johannesburg. He decides to leave at once to see her and to try also to find his brother John and son Absalom. Arriving in the city, Stephen is shocked at city life and soon finds Gertrude in a brothel where he forcibly removes her. Then he finds his brother, a leading politician of unrest. They have little to say to each other, so Stephen searches for his son. He finally locates Absalom in prison where he has been charged with the murder of a white man, Arthur Jarvis. Arthur was from the same province as the Reverend, and soon Stephen meets the murdered man’s father (Richard Harris). The remainder of the story plots the reconciliation of these two men. Powerfully told, the film maintains interest as the relationship between a black man and a white man unfolds in a new awareness of their common humanity. Those who appreciate thought provoking drama will particular enjoy this film.
Amazingly, the film contains no offensive language. Perhaps it’s because of its 1946 setting and the spirituality of the protagonist, Rev. Kumalo, a godly man. Violence consists of street fighting in Johannesburg, the Reverend strikes his sister in the brothel and a man is hanged. These incidents, however, are neither gratuitous nor glamorized. The murder of Arthur, though central to the story, is not shown. The film’s sexual content is limited to the brothel scene where Gertrude is found. Here, prostitutes wearing skimpy outfits solicit patrons, who are drinking and smoking. Overall CRY, THE BLOVED COUNTRY tells the story subtly, discreetly, and movingly without resorting to gratuitous violence, sex or bad taste.