The Black Kino Fist: Black life as depicted in film history

Cry, the Beloved Country (1951)

"Cry, the Beloved Country (1951) deals head-on with the evils of South Africa's apartheid system, which gave the full force of law to white supremacy and ruthless subordination of the country's black majority until it was finally dismantled in the 1990s. The screenplay is by Alan Paton, based on the eponymous novel he wrote in 1946, the year of a strike for higher wages that caused the death or injury of more than 1,000 black workers. Paton's book was published two years later, just as apartheid was being officially imposed; not surprisingly, South Africa's government banned it. The film adaptation debuted early in 1952, the year when new "pass laws" were instituted – crippling black people's freedom of movement more severely than ever – and when the anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela and a partner opened the country's first black legal firm, an early occurrence in the long struggle that finally ended apartheid some four decades later.
The picture was directed by Zoltan Korda, who belonged to a very cinematic family – his brothers were Vincent Korda, the prominent art director and production designer, and Alexander Korda, a prolific producer-director and founder of London Films, the English studio where Cry, the Beloved Country was produced. According to a memoir by Michael Korda, his nephew, Zoltan's health was weakening in the early 1950s but he was determined to make this film, which might possibly be his last, as honest and uncompromising as possible, no matter how much its anti-establishment message might offend the British Empire and its South African avatars. Much of it was filmed in South Africa in the thick of the apartheid era; costar Sidney Poitier, who plays Msimangu, says in his autobiography This Life that he and Canada Lee, who plays Stephen Kumalo, entered the country claiming to be "indentured laborers," not actors which would have aroused suspicion. Once they were there, they had to cope with official racism so severe that as black people they'd be breaking the law if they so much as drank a drop of alcohol."
- David Sterritt for TCM
Status: Limited availability on VHS. 
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