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4.5 out of 5 stars
109
Cry the Beloved Country
Format: DVD|Change
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on April 10, 2011
A poor black Anglican priest in South Africa during the time of apartheid must come to grips with the fact that his son has, during the course of committing a robbery, murdered a white man. Moreover the murdered white man had grown up on a wealthy plantation neighboring the black priest's church. The son of prejudiced white parents, the murdered white man had grown to become an outstanding, well recognized spokesman against apartheid and for equality among the races in South Africa. When the murdered man's father, ignorant of his son's work, reads it, he embraces the concepts.
Ultimately the black priest and the white landowner meet one another, although both had been much aware of the other's existence. The humble priest must reveal that it was his son who took away the life of the other man's son. The scene never fails to create streams of tears to flow down my face.
This newer version of Alan Paton's novel is touchingly portrayed by two outstanding actors - Richard Harris and James Earl Jones. Having seen the earlier version of "Cry, the Beloved Country," I thought I would not enjoy this rendition because the first one had been prepared with a modest simplicity which such a movie deserves in order to bring the theme to the forefront. I feared that Harris, with his flare for the dramatic, and Jones, with his magnificent voice, would draw too much attention to themselves. But both men are masterful actors and their performances only added to the pathos of the story, which subtly says there is hope for people.
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VINE VOICEon February 8, 2006
Darrell Roodt chose carefully when it was time to direct the first film of South Africa after the abolition of Apartheid. Alan Paton's novel was first filmed in 1951, and "Cry the Beloved Country" is a tale that seems as much a part of the South African collective zeitgeist as Twain or Hemingway or Steinbeck is part of America's.

This film version is centered around perhaps James Earl Jones' most powerful screen performance. He stars as the Reverend Stephen Kumalo, a clergyman from a small town in South Africa. He is a strong man of faith and leads a congregation in matters both religious and practical. His son ran away to Johannesburg to work in the mines, and his sister went away also to join her husband. His brother, John, is also in the city, an outspoken black activist who has abandoned the ways of religion because religion is not creating justice for blacks. The film opens with Reverend Kumalo receiving word that things are not all well in Johannesburg.

Richard Harris has the role of James Jarvis, a wealthy white landowner from the same small town. His son has also gone to Johannesburg, where he works as an activist trying to improve the repressed condition of the South African Blacks who are only starting to come under the evil thumb of Apartheid.

The whites and blacks are so separate that although they are two of the most prominent figures in a small town, Mr. Jarvis and the Reverend Kumalo have not even met as the movie opens. Tragedy strikes, more than once, and without spoiling the plot I'll just reveal that it involves the two sons of these two characters.

Roodt goes out of his way to display the noble suffering of Reverend Kumalo. He never speaks a discouraging word, even when confronting terrible injustice. The story hinges on Kumalo's innate goodness, and Mr. Jones brings this to life in a way that carries the story along.

It is worth mentioning a single scene - the one in which Kumalo and Jarvis first meet. The previously mentioned tragedy has already occurred and both men are in a kind of mourning. Kumalo knows Jarvis while Jarvis vaguely recognizes Kumalo. The Reverend confides in the powerful white man that "My greatest sorrow is also your greatest sorrow". The performances by these two great actors in this powerful scene would be reason alone to watch this film, but I would still recommend the movie with that centerpiece scene removed.

It is clichéd to say that the world would be a better place if we were collectively more understanding and tolerant of those who were different from us, but "Cry the Beloved Country" brings this sentiment forward in a way that is realistic and powerful.
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on May 16, 2013
'Cry the Beloved Country' :

This movie moved me to tears. Set just after the war when whites and blacks lived in reasonable harmony. During that time I seldom questioned he fact that black people were living humbly and in poverty while we whites enjoyed a high standard of living, using them as cheap labour. It was the correct order of things that coloured people knew their place. They were to be treated with Christian kindness and provided with a basic education and health care. Of course in separate institutions from ours.

The film precedes the change when the Afrikaner Nationalist government gained power. They were filled with hate. They were the descendants of the Boers and kept reminding people how they had suffered under the Black tribes (eight 'Kaffir' Wars) and by the 'English' (Boer War). They succeeded in removing the scales from my eyes. I became aware of the plight of black people and horrified by the brutality towards them.

I left my beloved country in despair, never to live there again. I could not have envisaged a great man would come along and despite 18 years of imprisonment, be determined to bring back democracy without bloodshed. This film is dedicated to him - Nelson Mandela.
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on May 18, 2012
Richard Harris and James Earl Jones are superb in portraying opposite sides of the racial conflict which so besets us these days. They both must endure painful circumstances to arrive at a heart changing accommodation with one another, but they do it through God's grace and a willingness to change. Beyond the racial issues the film also addresses the anguish any parent feels when a loved child goes astray. How do you deal with that? You don't deny it. You face it and again rely on God's grace to get you through the trials and inevitable self-recriminations.

However, the movie (based on Alan Paton's book) is about far more than just racial and family problems. At its core it is about man's basic problem of sin and his consequent estrangement from God. Yet the movie does not get "preachy" in the way it approaches that problem. While it does not give a direct gospel message, it clearly points to the Christian God as the solution. From that perspective it can provide a wonderful launching pad for after-viewing discussions of the details of the ultimate solution.

Set in 1946 South Africa, the movie achieves balance by showing good and bad on both sides of the racial divide. Harris is a prosperous farmer while Jones is a rural Anglican priest struggling with serious family problems, the problems of his poor congregation, and the consequences of the racial difficulties that eventually come to a head in the quagmire of metropolitan Johannesburg. The "beloved country" is vividly shown in the spectacular beauty of the South African countryside. The tears come from the human suffering brought about by our own sins--not just black vs. white, but by all of humankind. It is almost as if we are seeing the Garden of Eden experiencing the results of the Fall in a more modern setting.

Harris is complacent in his prosperity until he is struck with a gut-wrenching family tragedy that rises directly from the larger problems of the whole society. Jones is independently struggling with the personal and family consequences of the same tragedy. Neither man knows the other for the first half of the drama. The film is masterful in the way it builds to a convergence of the problems and the first meeting of the two men.

At that meeting there is some distance between the two men and Harris has his back to Jones when he suddenly realizes the awful truth of their circumstances. The camera lingers for several moments as Harris faces his time of decision. Will he continue as before or will he take the first step towards a personal solution?--a personal solution that must be replicated a million times and more on both sides before the larger problems are solved.

The last half of the film continues in a very positive way as many problems are resolved. However, the larger issue of man's estrangement from God still remains along with its inevitable and heartbreaking consequences. We see Jones kneeling in prayer on a beautiful South African mountainside, his heart heavy with sorrow over his son, but relying on God's ultimate solution and comfort for all who trust in Him.

This is a magnificent movie and I would recommend it to everyone who sincerely wants to get to the heart of our human problem in whatever form it manifests itself.

P.S. two terms are used quite frequently in the movie but never explained. However, the book gives these definitions: 1) "Umfundisi" means "parson," but it is also a title and used with respect; 2) "Umnumzana" simply means "sir."
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on January 17, 2001
This adaptation of Alan Paton's instant classic Cry the Beloved Country is one of the few movies which does the book justice. And while I still prefer the book for its beautiful, poetic depth of character, thought etc, I must say that Richard Harris and James Earl Jones give outstanding performances. This might be enough to commend the movie to some.
The movie gives a powerful picture of some of the issues which existed in South Africa before Apartheid became official policy, but which certainly prefigured much of that horrid system of government. The story of two men caught in tragic circumstances,(James Earl Jones, a black preacher in rural South Africa, whose people/families are being lost to the "mines" and industry of the cities, loses his son, who kills the son of a white landowner/neighbor(Harris) while living in Johannesburg). A study in how each man, seeks to deal with the realities of life in these tragic circumstances, without succumbing to the further tragedy of marxism which would later infect South Africa.
A wonderful picture of "life" in the midst of tragedy
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on October 16, 2012
Great performance by James Earl Jones. I bought the movie to compare with the book for extra credit in my college english class. While the book has more details and character development, I did enjoy the movie just as much. I would recommend this movie to anyone wanting a good history lesson on the struggle of Africa.

The way they speak is straight out of the book, so to help you I'll just say, Umfundisi is a priest. Umzana is a word of respect like Sir. Go well, and stay well are their way of saying have a good day, or see you later.

The distance Stephen Kumalo travels to Johannesburg and surrounding towns takes DAYS. It's not a 2 hr. train ride. This man lamented over finding his son.

The end of the movie is not accurate with the book so much. It should have ended at DAWN, not the middle of the day as portrayed in the movie, but thats ok. I still liked it.
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on April 3, 2017
Well-acted, sobering movie.
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on January 7, 2014
Without James Earl Jones in this movie, it is hard to follow and almost unwatchable. With him it is still somewhat hard to follow but enjoyable because James Earl Jones brings so much talent and emotion to the film. This is probably a sixth or seventh repurchase of the dvd over the years after other copies were lost, misplaced, or damaged (too much watching). It has become progressively more difficult to find older movies like this one. Would love to see this released on Blu-Ray.
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on September 22, 2013
This arrived in excellent condition (new) and very promptly. I actually ordered this for my daughter and her husband who like to watch quality movies. The story takes place in South Africa during in the late 1940s, portraying a heart-wrenching situation in the midst of racial and political tensions. I would recommend this to anyone, suitable for young teens to adult.
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on August 15, 2014
Fabulous, if poignant story -- the story is a classic. The film's acting was superb, and the scenery of South Africa is "lovely beyond any singing of it". The lead actors, especially, were first-rate. Keep a Kleenex or two or three handy.
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