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still from Cry Freedom (Richard Attenborough, GB/ZW 1987)

Cry Freedom

Richard Attenborough / GB, 1987 / 157 min.

In this true story, Denzel Washington plays anti-Apartheid activist Steve Biko in this powerful drama about the friendship between Biko and Donald Woods, a South African journalist (Kevin Kline). Biko died in his cell due to police brutality.

poster Cry Freedom (Richard Attenborough, GB/ZW 1987)

Donald Woods was the editor in chief of the liberal Daily Dispatch during in Apartheid-era South Africa. He wrote various critical articles about the – in his eyes – radical opinions of Steve Biko, the Black Consciousness Movement’s most prominent member. When he met Biko for the first time, the journalist had to modify his opinion considerably. Woods became an active anti-Apartheid activist after Biko was imprisoned in 1977 and died from police brutality. When Woods subsequently wrote a biography of Biko he gained the interest of the security services and fled to Lesotho disguised as a priest.

Richard Attenborough reconstructs the unusual friendship between two men with very different backgrounds and philosophies. Cry Freedom’s strong political message is underlined by Washington and Kline’s excellent acting; both excel in acute, tender and ironic dialogues. Washington received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role. Five years down the line, he would play another black civil rights activist: Malcolm X in Spike Lee's eponymous film.



Richard Attenborough

Production year




Original title

Cry Freedom


157 min.







Part of

Sidney Poitier & Denzel Washington

Sidney Poitier was Denzel Washington’s shining example. The actors were good friends, but never played in a film together. This summer, Eye brings them together on the big screen for the first time by showing the best of their films.

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still from In the Heat of the Night (Norman Jewison, US 1967)
still from Cry Freedom (Richard Attenborough, GB/ZW 1987)
still from Cry Freedom (Richard Attenborough, GB/ZW 1987)
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