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Monday, 20 August, 2001, 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK
Cry Freedom: Charting the struggle
Kevin Kline and Denzel Washington
Cry Freedom tells the story of 1970s apartheid
South African newspaper editor and anti-apartheid activist Donald Woods, who gained international recognition with the film Cry Freedom, has died at the age of 67.

Richard Attenborough's ambitious 1987 epic, Cry Freedom, is seen as an overview of conditions in South Africa at the height of apartheid.

This was a second biographical movie for Attenborough - this time about black leader Steve Biko - after the Oscar-sweeping success of Gandhi.

Donald Wood
Donald Woods laid flowers at a statue of Democracy in London
Denzel Washington memorably plays Biko, a former student leader who founded the Black Consciousness Movement in 1969 and gave up medical training to devote himself to the struggle.

Biko's message inspired a generation. He is portrayed in the film is as a charismatic leader in the model of Martin Luther King.

But though the film does tell Biko's story, it is essentially aimed at white audiences and as such concerns itself more with the story of Donald Woods.

Woods, played by Kevin Kline, was part of a group of progressive South African journalists which helped establish truthful and objective press, exposing the crimes of apartheid.

Cry Freedom tells the story of how Woods' friendship with Biko roused his political consciousness.

Richard Attenborough
Attenborough is acclaimed for his biographical movies
Woods eventually had to flee to Lesotho on New Year's Eve 1977, dressed as a priest, after Biko's death.

Biko died from brain injuries after 21 days in police detention.

Cry Freedom had the full collaboration of the real-life Donald and Mrs Woods.

The movie divided South Africa commentators.

Some said that Woods, portrayed in the film as a prominent member of the white liberal establishment, would have been a target for Biko's campaigns.

Others wondered why a film that was supposed to tell the story of a black civil rights leader focused so much on his white friend.

But most agreed that the film, particularly the scenes of schoolchildren uprising in Soweto, packed a powerful emotional punch.

See also:

19 Aug 01 | Africa
SA activist Donald Woods dies
19 May 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The brutal imprint of apartheid
01 Aug 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: South Africa
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