The film was made in 1995, shortly after the fall of apartheid and the free election of Nelson Mandela as President of South Africa.
Set in South Africa in October 1946, before the implementation of apartheid, this is the story of church minister Steven Kumalo who is requested from his village to Johannesburg. There he discovers that his son Absolom has been arrested for the murder of a white man. The white man's father James Jarvis, supports apartheid. When the two meet, they come to unexpected understandings about their sons and their own humanity.James Earl Jones as Rev Stephen Kumalo
Tsholofelo Wechoemang as Child
Richard Harris as James Jarvis
Charles S. Dutton as John Kumalo
Dolly Rathebe as Mrs. Kumalo
Jack Robinson as Ian Jarvis
Jennifer Steyn as Mary Jarvis
Patrick Ndlovu as Man 1
Darlington Michaels as Man 2
King Twala as Man 3
Robert Whitehead as Carmichael
Graham Armitage as the Judge
Although this is a South African film, the majority of the main characters in the movie are played by Westerners, specifically Americans.
The score was composed by veteran English composer John Barry, who dedicated it to Nelson Mandela. It has been described by film score reviewer Christian Clemmensen of Filmtracks.com as "one of Barry's last truly enjoyable efforts." Barry, who had previously composed music for such African themed films as Zulu (1964), Born Free (1966), and Out of Africa (1985), used predominantly western musical styles to complete the score. The music is notable for referencing themes from Barry's previous work on Zulu, augmenting the original warlike compositions into a somber piano theme for travel scenes. The film also features the song "Exile" by Enya.
The music was performed by the English Chamber Orchestra and recorded in Studio One at the EMI Abbey Road Studios, London.
The film was shot on location in KwaZulu Natal, Cape Province, and at Gauteng, South Africa.
Cry, the Beloved Country received a mostly positive response from critics and holds an 85% "Fresh" rating from the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
Online critic James Berardinelli gave the film four out of four stars, and described the performances of Harris and Jones as "superb," concluding "Rarely does a motion picture touch the heart so deeply, with no hint of artifice or manipulation." Stephen Holden of The New York Times also wrote favorably of the film, commenting "In a moment as transcendent as it is risky, the screen erupts with a volcanic emotion that cuts through the prevailing high-minded contemplation. Why risky? Because movies have become so invested in the unleashing of violent emotion and the escalation of hostility, that expressions of restraint, reconciliation and forgiveness can easily be read as corny cop-outs. Cry, the Beloved Country is not corny, and it doesn't cop out."
Conversely, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times had a less positive view of the film, giving it only two and half out of four stars, and commenting, "The film has genuine qualities. Its photography and tone evoke a South Africa that is indeed beloved by its inhabitants ('If the climate and the landscape were not so beautiful, we would have had a revolution 50 years ago,' Paton is said to have observed). The performances by Jones and Harris have a quiet dignity, suitable to the characters if not reflecting a larger reality. But the film contains little that would have concerned the South African censors under apartheid. [...] Cry, the Beloved Country reflects a sentimentality that motivates many people, but it fails as a portrait of what it used to be like in South Africa, what happened and what it's like now."NAACP Image Awards
Outstanding Motion Picture (Nominated)
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture: James Earl Jones (Nominated)
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture: Charles S. Dutton (Nominated)