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'Yihla Moja. The man is dead'



Cryfreedom TODAY'S RETRO-REVIEW: 1987's "Cry Freedom," starring Denzel Washington and Kevin Kline, directed by Richard Attenborough.

THE PLOT: The life and death of South African activist Steve Biko (Washington) as seen through the eyes of white newspaper publisher Donald Woods (Kline). Biko died in police custody on Sept. 12, 1977, during the apartheid era in South Africa. The movie is based on the book "Biko," written by Woods, who fled the country with his family after Biko's death.

MAYBE YOU REMEMBER: Denzel Washington scored his first Academy Award nomination (supporting actor) for his role as the non-violent, anti-apartheid activist. (It remains easily one of his best performances to date.)

SURELY YOU CAN'T FORGET: Peter Gabriel's song "Biko" was included on the movie's soundtrack, even though it was released in 1980. The song was covered by Joan Baez in 1987 and Simple Minds in 1989. The lyrics are haunting: "Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko. Oh Biko, Biko, because Biko. Yihla Moja, Yihla Moja. The man is dead." (The phrase "Yihla Moja" means "Come Spirit.")

WHAT THE CRITICS SAID: "It's sort of a liberal yuppie version of that Disney movie where the brave East German family builds a hot-air balloon and floats to freedom." -- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times.

WHY WE LOVE IT: Do you remember when people other than Michael Moore made films with a conscience? Go back to the '80s, my friends, and re-watch "Ghandi" and "Cry Freedom." One of the most disturbing scenes -- and "Cry Freedom" expectedly has a lot of them -- depicts the "Soweto Uprising" of 1976, where police opened fire on 10,000 students, killing more than 500 and wounding thousands more. After that tragic event, sanctions were leveled against South Africa globally.


"So as a prelude whites must be made to realize that they are only human, not superior. Same with Blacks. They must be made to realize that they are also human, not inferior."

"The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed."

"Black man, you are on your own."

"You are either alive and proud or you are dead, and when you are dead, you can't care anyway."

"In time, we shall be in a position to bestow on South Africa the greatest possible gift - a more human face."

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 2:25pm]


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