Uncle Bardie’s Spotlight Movie: Biko

Once a week on Friday, Uncle Bardie celebrates the creativity in others by shining a Spotlight on a movie, a song or a creator. In honor of Black History Month, this week’s Movie Spotlight is “Cry Freedom” (1987):

No revolution is successful without a writer, creating a new consciousness. The English Revolution had John Locke and Thomas Hobbes. The American Revolution had the two Thomases, Paine and Jefferson. The French Revolution had Voltaire and Rousseau. The Irish had W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory and Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League). The Russian Revolution had Maxim Gorky, Vladimir Mayakovsky, and Fyodr Dostoevsky.

And the revolution to overthrow apartheid in South Africa had Nadine Gordimer, Athol Fugard, J M Coetzee, Andre Brink, Breyten Breytenbach, Desmond Tutu and Steve Biko.

If Nelson Mandela was the Martin Luther King Jr. of South Africa, Steve Biko was its Medgar Evers. Like Medgar Evers, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Steve Biko gave people hope and a reason to believe in the darkest of times.

Steve Biko (Denzel Washington) was stopped on the way to speak at a black student conference and was arrested. Between August 18, 1977 and September 11, 1977, he was in police custody. During that time, he was brutally beaten to death by his captors. On September 12, 1977, he died.  It was reported by the government that he had died from a hunger strike. An inquest proved otherwise. His funeral was attended by over 10,000 people.

This was the beginning of the end for apartheid in South Africa.

The apartheid government’s repression continued. According to the film, “more than 700 school children were killed in the Soweto ‘disturbances’ that began on June 16, 1978 and over 4000 wounded.”

On February 11, 1990, Nelson Mandela was finally released from prison after more than 27 years of confinement. This began the process of dismantling apartheid in South Africa. On May 10, 1994, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s president.

In 2004, Steve Biko was voted the 13th of 100 Great South Africans. “Cry Freedom” is Steve Biko’s story and the extreme efforts the apartheid government of South Africa took to prevent his story from getting out to the world.

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