Cry, the Beloved Country (1951) - full transcript

In the back country of South Africa, black minister Stephen Kumalo (Canada Lee) journeys to the city to search for his missing son, only to find his people living in squalor and his son a criminal. Reverend Misimangu (Sidney Poitier) is a young South African clergyman who helps find his missing son-turned-thief and sister-turned-prostitute in the slums of Johannesburg.

[Big Ben chimes]

[choral singing]

[narrator] There is a lovely road
that runs from Ixopo into the hills.

These hills are grass-covered and rolling,

and they are lovely
beyond any singing of it.

The grass is rich and matted.

You cannot see the soil.

It is well-tended,

and not too many cattle feed upon it.

Keep it,

guard it, care for it,

for it keeps men,

guards men,

cares for men.

Destroy it,

and man is destroyed,

but the rich green hills break down.

They fall to the valley below,

and, falling, change their nature,

for they grow red and bare.

They cannot hold the rain and mist,

and the streams are dry in the kloofs.

Too many cattle feed upon the grass,

and too many fires have burnt it.

[cow moos]

Down in the valleys,
women scratch the soil that is left.

They are valleys of old men and old women,

of mothers and children.

The men are away.

The young men and the girls are away.

The soil cannot keep them anymore.

[children chattering and laughing]

Where are you going?

[girl] I am taking this letter
to the umfundisi.

-You will be late for school.
-No, I am running.

[distant voices]

[birds singing]

[knocking at door]

-Come in.
-[door opens]

[man] Come in, my child.

[door closes]

Umfundisi, I bring you a letter.

Where did you get it, my child?

From the store, umfundisi.

The white man asked me to bring it to you.

That was good of him.

Go well, small one.

Perhaps you might be hungry?

Not very hungry, umfundisi.

Perhaps a little hungry?

Just a little hungry, umfundisi.

Then go to the mother.

Perhaps she might have some food.

Do you know anything about a letter?

-Look at it.

[hens cluck outside]

Reverend Steven Kumalo.

St. Mark's Church.

Ndotcheni, Natal.

-It is not from our son.
-Perhaps it is from my brother, John.

It's not from John.

How we desire such a thing,
and when it comes we fear to open it.

Who's afraid? Open it.

"My dear brother in Christ,

I have had the experience of meeting

a young woman here in Johannesburg."

"I understand she is the sister
of the Reverend Steven Kumalo."


"This young woman

is very sick,

and therefore I ask you to come

quickly to Johannesburg."


"Yours faithfully,

Theophilus Msimangu."

[Kumalo] Have you eaten, my child?

Yes, umfundisi.

Thank you for bringing the letter.

Will you take my thanks
to the white man at the store?

Yes, umfundisi.

Go well, small one.

-Stay well, umfundisi, stay well, mother.
-Go well, my child.

Bring me the St. Chad's money.

This money was to send Absolom
to the high school, to St. Chad's.

-Absolom will never go to St. Chad's.
-How can you say such a thing!

I must say what is true.

When people go to Johannesburg,
they do not come back.


You're right.

When people go to Johannesburg,
they do not come back.

They do not even write anymore.

They're lost,
and no one hears from them at all.

-You're hurting yourself.
-Hurting myself?

Hurting myself?

I do not hurt myself.

It is they who are hurting me.

My own son…

My own sister…

My own brother…

Go up and ask the white man at the store.

Perhaps there are letters.

Perhaps they fall under the counter
or have been hidden amongst the food.

Look in the trees.

Perhaps they've been blown there
by the wind!

You're hurting me also.

That, I may not do.

[knocking at door]


Yes, my friend?

I am in trouble.

What is your trouble?

You know, umfundisi…

It is our contract that each
of my children must work so many months

for the white man Ujarvis,

and now, when it is time

for to make the contract,

my son has not returned.

[Kumalo] Yes?

And Ujarvis says

we must leave his place.

-And where shall we go, umfundisi?

My friend, what can I do?

I thought you could speak to Ujarvis.

I am going on a journey to Johannesburg.

Why do you not ask the teacher?

I asked him, umfundisi,

but he says he could not do such a thing.

Why do you think I could do it?

You are the umfundisi.
I thought you could speak.

Jarvis does not even know who I am,

if I were not going on this journey…

[old man] Where shall we go, umfundisi?

Go well on your journey, umfundisi.

[old man] Perhaps if you should see my son

in Johannesburg…

[Kumalo] I would do it, my friend.

[man] Hello, James.

Hello, Frank!

[Frank] You're an optimist.

Well, I'm trying.

James, you're wasting your time
and just spoiling your tractor.

-How are Dick and Barbara?
-Well, James, they're well.

-[James] Do they like living in Springs?
-Yes, they do. Dick's going strong.

-He got a rise last month.

-I see your son's going strong too.
-[James] Oh?

Dick sent me the Johannesburg paper.

[Frank] Shaking hands, too.
He's moving fast.


I know they need native housing
in Johannesburg,

this whole shanty town business
is a damned disgrace,

but, damn it, James!

Oh, he and I don't see eye-to-eye
on these matters, Frank.

[Frank] I guess you don't.

No, keep it,
Margaret might like to see it.

She would like to see it.
He can't do wrong in his mother's eyes.

It's funny, you can't deny it.

We can't get labour because
they all want to go to the cities.

When they get there,
there aren't enough houses for them.

So Arthur tries to get them more houses,
and you and I, James, get less labour.

Sometimes I think I'll chuck farming.

[Frank chuckles]

It is funny, you can't deny it.

Well, I'll be going.


Well, I understand about the houses,
but why does he have to shake hands?

[bird crowing]

[woman] I thought you weren't coming,
so I started.

That's all right, dear.

Where's my paper?

What paper?

Jean telephoned
and said Frank was bringing me a paper.


He brought it.
I threw it down in the field.

You know, Frank… huh!

-By now he's told the whole countryside!
-I'm proud of it.

But I'd like to have seen his picture.

Yes, yes, of course.

Arthur leads his own life,
I don't mind that.

-But he might consider other people.
-That's what he's doing.

You know quite well what I mean.

William's wife was here today. Is it true
that they have to leave the farm?

-Now, my dear…
-[woman] Yes, James, I know.

But old William's worked for us for years,

it's not his fault if his son goes away.

It's a matter of contract.

-Yes, I know, but--
-I'm running a farm, not a charity.

Old William's all right.

Family a lot of
good-for-nothing scoundrels.

All right, James.

What did the doctor say?

Oh, just what he said before.

I must be careful.

No sudden excitements.

I mustn't lift heavy weights,
I mustn't worry…

So I suppose I mustn't worry
about old William.

-Have you told me all the doctor said?
-Don't fuss, James. I told you everything.


Look after yourself, dear.

You know…

This matter of William.

Yes, James?

You see, it's a matter of contract…

[train whistle]

[steam train chuffing]

[chickens clucking]

[passengers talking]


[Kumalo] Yes, my friend?

-I have a favour to ask.
-Ask it, then.

You know Sibeko?

[Kumalo] Yes?

Umfundisi, Sibeko had a daughter.

She worked
for the white man Usmith in Ixopo.

Now the daughter of Usmith married
and went to live in Johannesburg,

and the daughter of Sibeko
went to work for them.

The address is there, umfundisi,

with the new name of this married woman,

but Sibeko has heard no word
of his daughter this 10, 12 months.

-He asked you to enquire, umfundisi.

Springs, I've heard of this place.

It is not Johannesburg,
though they say it is near.

Why did not Sibeko come to me himself?

-He is not of our church.
-Is he not of our people?

Can a man in trouble go only
to those of his own church?

[man] I shall tell him, umfundisi.

Tell him I shall go.

I shall do all I can,
my friend, but I shall be busy.

I have many things to do in Johannesburg.

[train whistle]


Go well.

My friend, stay well.

[steam train chuffing]

[train whistle]

[train whistle]


There are the mines.

Those white hills in the distance.

Can we see the gold?

[passengers laugh]

That is only the rock out of the mine.

[Kumalo] Who digged it?

We dig it,

and when it is too hard to dig,
we go away,

and the white man blow it up
with the dynamite,

then we come back
and load it onto the trucks.

[Kumalo] And how is it brought up?

In the cage.

They'll wind it up
with a long rope on a wheel.

Wait, I'll show you one.

There, umfundisi!

[passenger] There's the wheel.

[passenger sighs]

[Kumalo] What do the white men do
with the gold?

They sell it to the white men in America.

[Kumalo] And what do they do?

They have a big hole in the ground,

and they put it all back again.

[passengers laugh]

They say that is what makes the world
go around.

[passengers laugh]

[Kumalo] Do they pay much money
in the mines?

Not much, umfundisi.

Three shillings a day.

You can get more money there
in Johannesburg.

My brother knows a man
who gets five pounds a week.

[Kumalo] Where does he get such money?

In the factory.

A man can do many things
in Johannesburg, umfundisi.

He can work in the mines,
or in the white men houses,

or help in the garage,
or teach in our schools.

He can even be a doctor for our people!

And what can a woman do?

[passengers laugh]

It is not like the country, umfundisi.

[train rumbling]

[Kumalo] Is this Johannesburg?

[passengers laugh]

No, no. That is nothing.

[train whistle]

[train whistle]

[passenger] This is Johannesburg.

That is one of those places
that they call the flats,

where the white people live.

Where do our people live?

Not here, umfundisi.

They live outside.

[Kumalo] How do they come to work?

Buses, trains,


You will see.

The Alexandria bus has gone to sixpence.
So the people walk.

-Is it far?
-Ten miles.

[train braking]

[voices shouting]

[indistinct chatter and traffic]

[car horn beeps]

[laughter from crowd]

Where do you want to go, umfundisi?

To Sophiatown, young man.

Come with me
and I shall take you to the buses.

[singing in background]

You must stand in line, umfundisi.

Have you your money for the ticket?

Shall I get your ticket for you,

Then you need not lose
your place in the line

while I go to the ticket office.

[singing in the background]

Father Tisa.

Father Gregory.

Welcome to the mission house, Mr. Kumalo.

How do you do, Mr. Kumalo?

I am well, thank you.

Father Thomas.

[door closes]

[man] Father Vincent?

This is Mr. Kumalo from Ndotcheni.

Welcome to Johannesburg, Mr. Kumalo.

Mr. Kumalo has already had
a welcome to Johannesburg.

A young man guides him to the buses
and he says to our friend,

"You stand there in the line
and I shall get your ticket for the bus."

"Have you money, umfundisi?"

Oh yes, the umfundisi has a pound.

The young man goes
around the corner with the pound,

and our friend waits and waits,

but he does not see the young man again,
and of course he does not see the pound!

I fear that
there are many such young men about.

[bell rings]

Perhaps you'd like to
wash after your journey?

I have a room for you at
Mrs. Litheby's across the street.

And we shall all meet again at dinner.

[man laughs]

Umfundisi, if anything is wanted,

I have only to be asked.

[Kumalo] Thank you, mother.

[Kumalo] You will pardon me, but…

I'm anxious to hear about my sister.

She is much younger than you.

She was the child of my father's age.

You will pardon me if I ask you first.

Why did she come to Johannesburg?

She came with a small child
to find her husband,

who was recruited for the mines.

She never came back.

Is she very sick?


She's very sick…

but it is not that kind of sickness.

It is another, a worse kind of sickness.

I do not know
if she ever found her husband,

but she has no husband now.

It would be truer to say
that she has many husbands.

This is terrible news for you.

Will you smoke?

I do not really smoke.

Sometimes it quietens one to smoke…

but there should be another kind
of quiet in a man…

and then let him smoke to enjoy it.

I have another great sorrow.

You must tell me.

A son, maybe?

Or a daughter?


Absolom is his name.

We sent him to look for my sister,
but he too never came back…

And now, eh?

Still more afraid.

We will try to find him, my friend.

We shall find him.

Have no fear.

Where is this place where my sister lives?

We shall go there tomorrow!

[man singing]

[laughter and voices]

-Do you go alone?
-[woman laughs]

It would be better.

[father] You will find me
next door at number 13.

There are people of our church there.
Their eldest daughter has just run away.

Come in, my brother.

[distant singing]

This is your house.

Where is your husband?

I have not found him.

You did not write to tell us.

I had no money.

Not even two pennies for a stamp?

And you've been in prison.

Was it for liquor?

-I wasn't guilty, there was another woman.
-And you stayed with her?

-And helped her with her trade?

I had to have money for the child.

Where is the child?

It shall be fetched.

[voices in street]

[bottles clink]


[muttering] Liquor…

[Kumalo] Prostitute with a child

and your brother a priest!

[she sobs]


Have you forgotten me?

You have forgotten me.

This is no place for a child like this.

Have you many things?

These things that you see.

A few dishes and pots and pans.

Why did you not go to our brother John?

I went to our brother John.

Do you know what he said to me?

He said, "Your trade is as good as mine."

[indistinct chatter]

[knocking at door]

[man] Come in!

Yes, umfundisi? What can I…

Well, well! My brother!

-Who can believe it?
-Do you know my friend?

Everyone knows the father!

Come and sit down, gentlemen,
and we shall have some tea.

[John laughs]

Is your wife well, my brother?

Oh, my wife has left me
these ten years, my brother!

-Are you married again?
-Oh, married!

Not what the church calls married!
I can't lie to men with such collars,

but she's a good woman.

Now, tell me what brings you
to Johannesburg.

[Kumalo] Our sister.

-I am taking her back with me.
-Oh, well, well, that is a good thing.

I offered her money to help her
to go back to Ndotcheni, but…

but she paid no attention to me.
So we do not meet anymore.

Tell me. What do you know about my son?

You have heard that
he was friendly with my son.

Yes, I heard.

Well. My son did not understand
his second mother,

so he left, and your son went with him.

And you let them go.

[John] They were not children.

But here, in Johannesburg…

Why not?

A boy must learn to be a man.

[father] What kind of a man?

My kind of a man.

The kind of a man
I would like my son to be.

You can read it all in this speech.

[John] The church will speak
of repentance and obedience,

but of the things
that most need amendment…


-[John] Pimville!
-It speaks of those.

It has spoken like that
for ten, fifty years!

Have you seen any change there?

The laws, the wages, the poverty!

-My brother…
-Have you seen the bishop's house?

Is it like your own in Ndotcheni?

And you want us all to return there,
me and our sister, your son, my son.

Let us be obedient
to the church and the chief.

My wife told me you would be changed.

Of course I am changed!

There is a new thing growing here,

stronger than any church or chief!

[Kumalo] My brother,
where did these two boys go?

I do not rightly know.

Now, wait a minute…

They were both working in a factory…

But wait, I'll look in the telephone book.

[John] Here it is!

Dornfontein Textile Company.

14 Krauser Street.

Can we not telephone?

What for?

To ask if Absolom Kumalo is there?

To ask them to call him to the telephone?
To ask for his address?

They do not do such things
for a black man, my brother!

[father] It does not matter.

My hands are yours, my friend.

There. You can see
for yourself when he left.



-Do you remember Absolom Kumalo?
-[Urpidi] Yes, sir.

Do you know where he is now?

I do not know where he is now…
but I remember where he used to stay.

He stays Sophiatown,
with people called Ndlela.

Umfundisi, a year or more ago.

Where he went, I do not remember…

But wait, I had a letter from him.

Why did you look at my friend with pity?

We did not like the boy's friends.

That is why he left.

Was there anything worse than that?

There was nothing worse than that.

There's the letter, umfundisi,
and there's the address.

Thank you, mother.

[father] Let me write it down.

[indistinct chatter]

[father] We are looking for a boy.

Absolom Kumalo.

[woman] He has left.

It is many, many months since he left.

[father] Where did he go?

[woman] I do not know where he went.

Do you think I have walked all this way
to turn away like a fool?

The holy church.

[man] God bless the church.

His head goes round and round.

I can see that.

[man laughs]

The holy church. God bless the church.

[Kumalo] This young man…

Absolom Kumalo…

How did he behave himself?

There was nothing wrong.

Then why are you afraid?

-I'm not afraid.
-Then why are you trembling?

I'm cold.

We thank you.

Stay well.

[woman] Go well.

[man] The holy church.
God bless the church.

[door closing]

My friend…
two of us are too many together.

Turn left at the big street
and go up the hill.

You'll find a place for refreshments.
Wait for me there.

I swear to you on this book
that no trouble will come to you of this,

for we seek only a boy,

so help me God.
What sort of life did they lead?

They brought many things here.



Money… food.

Was there ever blood on them?

I never saw blood on them.

-Did she speak?
-Yeah, she spoke.

Let's look for Klabeni, a taxi driver.

[father] I'm told you can
help me to find a young man.

Absolom Kumalo.

I'm not here for trouble.

Look for yourself.

[father] He is looking for a lost son,

and everywhere we go,
they tell us to go somewhere else.

Yes, I know this young man.

And where is he now?

He went to shanty town,

but that is a year ago now.

-[father] Can you take us there?
-[driver] Get in, umfundisi.

[train rumbling]

You mean, he lives here?

In this very house,

but that was a long time ago.

Wait here a while.

He was here, umfundisi,
but they sent him away to the reformatory.


[nurse] Yes, some six, nine months ago.

[train rumbling]

What is the trouble?

They were gambling.

-[people marching]
-[orders being shouted indistinctly]

-[boy] It is the Reverend Mr. Kumalo.
-[man] Kumalo?

Absolom's father?

Yes, sir. Absolom Kumalo.

You know, he told me he had no people.

He was no doubt ashamed.

I should tell you, sir, his father learned
only today that his son was here.

I understand.

Your son did well here, umfundisi.

If he does as well outside,
you'll have nothing to fear.

You mean, sir… he has gone?

We let him go partly because
he behaved himself well,

but mainly because of a girl.

-[man] Yes, a girl.

You know, she was with child by him.

Is he married to her?

No, he's not,
but we're arranging for them to marry.

That's why I got him this job!

[man] Come, I'll take you
to Pimville, where they live.

[door opens]

[indistinct chatter]

[solemn violin music]

We've come to ask after Absolom.
This umfundisi is his father.

He went on Saturday to work,
and he has not returned.


But he doesn't work on Saturdays.

And this is… Tuesday.

-And you've heard nothing?
-[woman] No, nothing.

When will he return?

I do not know.

[man] Will he ever return?

I do not know.

What will you do?

Perhaps you'll find another man.

I do not know.

-My child!
-Yes, umfundisi?

How old are you?

I think I am 16.

Where are your father and mother?

My father left us

because my mother was often drunk.

[Kumalo] Is that why you left her?

No, I didn't understand my second father.

Have you not troubles enough of your own?

I tell you,

were your back as broad as heaven,
and your purse full of gold,

and did your compassion reach
from here to hell itself…

There's nothing you can do.

[music swells with emotion]

I am going back to speak with her.

I tell you, you can do nothing.

There are thousands like that here.

You do not understand.

The child will be my grandchild.

Even that, you do not know,

and if it is so,
how many more such have you?

Shall we search them out
day after day, hour after hour?

Will it ever end?

[man] Kumalo.

Absolom Kumalo.

[voice on phone] Kumalo…


He was absent Monday,
so we struck him off.

Couldn't you keep the job open?

Say, until Friday?

I'm ashamed.

I see that you are ashamed.

I ask your forgiveness for my ugly words.

I'm old. I've learned something.

You're forgiven.

Sometimes I think I'm not fit
to be a priest.

I could tell you…

It is no matter.

You told me you were a weak and
selfish man, but God put his hand on you.

It is true, it seems.

You comfort me.


I have something to ask you.

I agree.

You agree?

To what?

That we should come back another day
to see the girl.

-You are clever too, it seems.
-[father laughs]

It is not good that only one
should be clever.

Cheer up, old man, he might be sick,
might have had an accident, anything.

Yes, he might.

See you again.

[sad orchestral music]

I've telephoned the factory.

He's not been there this week.

I'm sorry for this end to his work.

Yes, it's my work,

but it's his son.

Do not give up hope, umfundisi.

I will not give up the search.

After all, he might be sick,

might have had an accident… anything.

[music becomes lighter and suspicious]

[music intensifies]

[boy 1] Are you sure it's all right?

[boy 2] The woman and the children
are away and the white man is at work.

It's only the servant there.

[boy 3] Have you got the revolver?

[servant] What do you want?

-[boy 3] We want money and clothes.
-[servant] You cannot do such a thing!

[boy 3] Do you want to die? People tremble
when I speak. Do you want to die?

Master! Master!

[music intensifies]

[music slows down]

[music accelerates]

I'm going over.

-You ring for the police.

[man groans]


My God…

[tense music]

[birds singing]

-Yes, sir.


-Arthur Jarvis?

-By natives?

Jack, what's all this?

Arthur Jarvis.

Murdered… by natives.

Hell, that's bad.

What do you mean, especially bad?

Of course!
Wasn't he always fighting for them?

Ought to make a man careful
what he fights for.

What do you mean?

What do I mean? Do you want an ABC?

Look what he does and see what he gets!

The bastards…

[car engine revs]

[Jarvis] Hello, Captain.

Bring any rain with you?

-I don't see any, Mr. Jarvis.
-Mm, neither do I.

Well, what brings you out today?

Mr. Jarvis, I…

I have bad news for you.

Bad news?

Is it my son?

Yes, Mr. Jarvis.

Is he dead?

He was shot dead at half past one
this afternoon in Johannesburg.

Shot dead? By whom?

Suspected by a native housebreaker.

-Sorry to bring this news to you.
-Oh my God…


[Jarvis] You didn't tell my wife yet?

[Captain] No, Mr. Jarvis.

She isn't strong.

If you are to catch the train,
you should leave at six,

or you could take a plane.
There is one waiting at Pietermaritzburg.

[Captain] We must let them know
by four o'clock.

[Jarvis] Yes, yes.

[Jarvis] You know, I can't think.

I can understand that.

[Jarvis] Which would be better?

I think the plane, Mr. Jarvis.

[Jarvis] We'll take it.

We must let them know, you say?

[Captain] I'll telephone as soon
as we get to the house.

Can you stand up, Mr. Jarvis? I…

[Captain] I don't want to help you,
your wife is watching us.

She's wondering, Captain.

Even at this distance,
she knows something is wrong.

Oh my God,
I don't know how she'll stand it.

[Jarvis] Shot dead…

He was our only child.

[Captain] I know that, Mr. Jarvis.

[bird crowing]

James… What's the matter?

Some trouble, my dear.

Captain, you'll want to use the telephone.

Come with me, dear.

[bird crowing]

This is police.

I want Police Pietermaritzburg.

Yes, very urgent.

[woman] No.

-[woman] No! No! No!
-Police Pietermaritzburg?

-[woman] No! No!
-This is Police Ixopo.

[woman sobbing]

Yes, Police Ixopo.

We want that aeroplane to Johannesburg.

Yes, that's right,
the aeroplane to Johannesburg.

And that is where I was born.

-Right there.

I always said that it was
the finest country in all the world.

I've one or two questions
to ask about this country.

Well, go ahead, Thomas!

Firstly, have you lions there?

[priests laugh]

Secondly, have you crocodiles there?

[priests laugh more loudly]

Thirdly, have you any Victoria Falls
in this country?

[raucous laughter]

Really, Thomas, you're a barbarian!


Arthur Jarvis!

[father Vincent] Arthur Jarvis…


Arthur Jarvis.

What is it?


By one of our own people.

Arthur Jarvis?

Perhaps you knew him?

[father Vincent]
The only child of James Jarvis,

of High Place, Carisbrooke.

I did not know the son,

but I knew the father.

I mean…

I knew him by sight and name,

but we have never spoken.

Sometimes he rode past my church,

but I did not know the son.


I remember…

There was a small, bright boy.

I remember,

though I do not remember well.

A small, bright boy.

Mr. Kumalo…

I think I shall go to my room.


It is foolish to fear
this one thing in this great city,

with its thousands
and thousands of people.

It is not a question
of wisdom and foolishness.

It's just fear.

[Kumalo] Fear…

My brother…

Come and pray.

There is no prayer left in me.

Why this man? Why not another man?

Why does it happen?
And why is it allowed to happen?

I'm a man for peace.

Peace between white and black.

Then this, it comes like a sword,

even between you and me.

Why, Martens, aren't you going home?

Good evening, sir.

Yes, I'm going home, I was just working.

You weren't working.

What's the matter?

Arthur Jarvis?

Yes, sir.

Come on, out with it!

-That boy Absolom Kumalo's disappeared.
-[man] My boy, you're being foolish.

I can't help it, sir, when one of these
things happens, I… I think…

Could it be this one?

Or that one?

[man] Weren't there three of them?

So I think who was the second?
Who was the third?

[man] I know how you feel.

I went through it all myself,
but it's foolish.

You know…

I must have feared it a hundred times
and not once did it happen to me.

I imagine them saying

"You let him go too soon."

-[man] I let him go, not you.
-It was my advice, sir.

Course, if it were a white boy…
wouldn't matter so much.

[man] But it wasn't a white boy.

Come on, it's time for you to go home!

Would you like a change?

I could use you somewhere else.

No, sir.

I'll stick to this job.

[plane revving]

[plane door opens]

[woman sobbing] Mary…

[man] Well, Jarvis…

[man] Margaret.

I can't say anything.

-Know how it feels.
-[Mrs. Jarvis sobs]

Jarvis, you remember John.

Yes, he was Arthur's best friend.

The finest man I ever knew, sir.

And this is Major Atif.

My sympathies, sir.

-My sympathy, madam.
-[Mrs. Jarvis sobs]

The truth is, we are all scared stiff
at the moment in Johannesburg.

Mm, what's that, Harrison?

I said we were all scared stiff
at the moment in Johannesburg.

-Scared of what?
-This Black crime.

These robberies and brutal attacks,
often by young boys.

Arthur used to say
we were in some way responsible.

Can't say I always followed him,

but you had to listen to him.

He was, you know, sincere.

He was right, too.

He said they were a lost generation.

That's why he started a boys' club.

Oh, I'm not against boys' clubs,

but our courts are too lenient, Jarvis.
When a man kills, well, he must be killed.

By God, I hope they catch them
and string them all up.


[soft harp music]

I hoped you'd never come.

I'm sorry, dear.

I'm being foolish.

What have you been doing?


about the boy…

or what he did

or what he tried to do.


An English paper…

Afrikaans, natives… all kinds of people.

"The Bantu Boys' Club,


"Dear Mr. Jarvis."

"How this club would be arranged
without your participation

would be a mystery
to many minds amongst us."

"It is on these counts

that we desire to elect you again
to our president."

"I am asking an apology
for this writing paper,

but our camp writing paper is lost

owing to… unforeseen circumstances."

"I am your obedient servant,

Washington Afifi."

You understood it.

Yes, James.

I didn't understand it.

I didn't know it would ever be
so important.

[inquisitive orchestral music]

Where did you get this?

It was given to me by someone
who couldn't pay.

[man laughs]

Don't lose it.

We might want to see it again.

Come on, and follow me!

Yes, Sarge. African police…

[man chatters incoherently]

-[father] Miss Ndlele.
-Umfundisi? The police came to me.

-What did they want?
-The boy. I gave them the address.

-Did I do wrong?
-You did no wrong. What else did they say?

They spoke amongst themselves,
but I could see that they knew this woman.

Go well, mother, with my thanks.

[tense orchestral music]

Mrs. Ndlele was here.

[father] Yes.

There is news.

The police asking after the boy.

-Why do they want the boy?
-We do not know.

You were going alone.

I was going alone.

Now you may come.

No one must pay but me.

Here's my money.

We shall use it, then.

Come, let us go.

-What did the police find?

-Where did they go?
-How should I know?

I've got no time for playing,
where did they go?

[man] The reformatory, umfundisi.

[tyres squeal]

[tense orchestral music]

Where did they go?

To the home of the girl.


[woman] You young girls of today
will take a young man.

You do not know his home or his people.

Then he goes off.

Leaves you with a child.

[car horn in street]

It is not only the young girls.

Look at me.

[tense orchestral music]

Umfundisi, the police have been here,
looking for Absolom.

Why do they want him?

-I do not know.
-Why did you not ask?

-I was afraid.
-Did no one ask?

The women asked.

[father] Which one of
you spoke to the police?

I spoke to them, umfundisi.

-And why did they want the boy?
-They would not say.

-Did they say where they would go?
-They did not say.

What is the trouble, umfundisi?

We do not know.

The world is full of trouble.

[soft orchestral music]

[music intensifies]

[music softening]

So you've come too.

[music swells]

Read it.

It's worth reading.

[funereal organ music]

[priest] We remember him
with grief and sorrow,

but our sorrow must be lifted up
by thanks that he was given to us,

and indeed by pride
that he belonged to us.

God forbid that this death,

and the terrible manner of it
should still further divide us.

Man that is born of a woman
has but a short time to live,

and is full of misery.

He cometh up and is cut down
like a flower.

He fleeth as it were a shadow.

And never continueth in one stay.

We want you to know…

Thank you.

There are many of us.

Thank you.


Thank you.


[woman] We will never forget.

[woman 2] So many of us.

[woman 3] We do not forget.


Your son was a good man.

[father] You're trembling, my friend.

I'm cold.

Very cold.

We will have a fire
and make you warm again.

I have heard what you feared.

It is true.

How do you know?

Absolom gave himself up.

When we got back to the police station
he was waiting for us.

This will be bad for the reformatory.

There's one thing.

The other two boys were not
reformatory boys,

but it was he who fired the shot.

One of the two others is the son
of his brother.

[man] So we see you again, my brother.

Sit down, sit down!

Give me just a moment.

[man] And the prodigal son,
did you find him?

[Kumalo] Yes, my brother.

My son… and yours also.

[John] Where is he?

[Kumalo] Prison.



What for?

[Kumalo] Murder.


-What murder?
-[Kumalo] Of a white man.

A white man.

Not the man Jarvis in Parkwold?


I am sorry, my brother.

You mean…

You mean…

[Kumalo] Your son was there also.

My God!

My God!

[choral singing]

[Kumalo] At last I have found you…

and it is too late.

[Kumalo] Is it not too late?

Why did you do this terrible thing,
my child?

Answer me!

I do not know.

They have no doubt it was you?

I told them, my father.

What did you tell them?

I told them I was frightened
when the white man came,

so I shot him.

[Kumalo] Did you tell them…
these other two were with you?

I told them they came with me.

It was I who shot the white man.

Did you go there to steal?

You were at the reformatory, my son.

I was, sir.

Did they treat you well?

They treated me well.

And this is your repayment?

Hello, Absolom.


Why did you leave the work
that I got for you?

Why did you leave it, Absolom?

And your girl,

the one we let you go to,
the girl you worried over

so that we took pity on you.

And so the world goes.

Answer me one thing, my son.

Will you answer me?

I can answer, my father.

You wrote nothing,

sent no message.

You stole and broke in.

Yes. You did these things.

But why, my son?


It was bad company.


That I understand.

For you yourself.

What made you yourself do it?

It was the devil.

Why did you not fight against the devil?

Were you not taught to fight against him?

Does he still wish to marry the girl?

Do you wish to marry this girl, my son?

I can marry her.

I can see what I can do.

[Martens] It is time for us to go.

May we come again?

Yes, you may come again.
We shall ask the hours at the gate.

I think you may write letters here,

but do not write to your mother
until I see you again.

I must first write to her.

It is as my father says.

[Kumalo whimpers]

Well, well, we must go at once
and see a lawyer.

A lawyer, my brother?

For what should we spend such money?

Story is plain.

Can be no doubt about it.

What is the story?


These three boys went to a place
that they thought was empty.

They struck down a servant,

and the white man heard the noise
and came down to see and then…

Then my son,

mine, not yours,

shot him.

He was afraid, he says.

Has he told you this
in front of the others?

Why not, if it is the truth?

Perhaps you do not need a lawyer.

[John] If he admits
shooting the white man,

there's nothing more to be said.

Will you have a lawyer, then?


You see, my brother,

there is no proof that my son
or this other young man was there at all.

Not there at all?

-But my son--
-Yes, yes, but who would believe your son?

[Kumalo] Do you think
I should have a lawyer?

It's not my work to get lawyers.

If you want to go back to Sophiatown,
I shall take you.

[engine turns over]

It's not my work to get lawyers!

It's my work to help,
to reform, to uplift!

It's wonderful work,
wonderful work. Noble work.

You must not think
a parson's work's nobler.

You save souls.

I save souls too, what good is it?

You see them come into the world
and go out.

You saw your son come into the world.
You will see him go out of it too.

[engine turns over but doesn't start]

Are you coming to Sophiatown
or are you not?

You're a clever man.

Just thank God you're not my brother.

[engine revs and accelerates]

[car horn]

Msimangu said to me,

"Why fear this one thing

in a city where there are thousands
upon thousands of people?"

That comforted me.

That comforted me.

If only one could have been told
that this step is taken,

and this step is about to be taken.

If only one could have been told…

But others saw it,
to whom it did not matter.

They saw it step by step.

They said, "This is Johannesburg,
and this is a boy going wrong

as other boys
have gone wrong in Johannesburg."

But to us,

for whom it meant life and death,

it was not revealed.

There is a man sleeping in the grass,

above him is gathering
the greatest storm of all his days.

Such thunder and lightning shall come
there as has never been seen before.

People hurry home past him
to places safe from danger,

and whether they do not see him there,

or whether they fear to halt
for only a moment,

They do not wake him.

They let him be.

Drink your tea.

[father Vincent] It will soon be cold.

My friend, when a storm threatens,

and a man is afraid for his house,

there's nothing that he can do,

but when the house is destroyed,
he can rebuild.

At my age?

Look at the house I built
when I was young and strong!

What kind of house shall I build now?

No one can comprehend the ways of God.

It seems God has turned from me.

That may seem to happen,
but it does not happen.

Never, never does it happen.

I'm glad to hear you.

And because you are a priest,

the amendment of your son's life
must matter to you more than all else.

That is true,

but I cannot see how such a life
can be amended.

You cannot doubt that.

-There was a thief upon the cross.
-My son was not a thief!

There was a white man
devoted to our people,

and his wife and children
were bereaved because of my son!

I can't suppose this to be less
than the greatest evil I have known!

A man may repent him of any evil.

He will repent!

If I say to him,

"Do you repent?"

He will say,

"It is as my father says."

If I say to him,

"Was it not evil?"

He will say,

"It is evil."

But if I speak otherwise,
putting no words into his mouth,

if I say to him,

"What will you do now?"

He will say,

"I do not know."

[Kumalo] Or he will say,

"It is as my father says."

He is a stranger, I cannot touch him!

He weeps only for himself,

not for his wickedness,

but for his danger!

Can a person lose all sense of evil?

A boy brought up as he was brought up?

I see only his pity for himself,

he who has made two children fatherless.

I tell you,

whoever offends one of the
little ones, it were better that--

[father Vincent] Stop!

You're beside yourself.

Go and pray.

Go and rest,

and do not judge your son too quickly,
he is shocked into silence, maybe.

That is why he says to you,
"It is as my father wishes,"

and "Yes, that is so,"
and "I do not know."

I trust that is so…

but I have no hope anymore.

What did you say I must do?



and rest.

Sit down!

I must speak to you as a priest.


I said pray and rest.

Even if it is only words that you pray

and even if your resting
is only lying on a bed,

and do not pray for yourself,

and do not pray to understand
the ways of God, for they are secret.

Who knows what life is?

For life is a secret,

and why you have compassion for a girl,
when you yourself find no compassion.

That is a secret,

and why you go on when it would seem
better to die, that is a secret.

Do not pray and think about these things
now, there will be other times.

Pray for Gertrude and for her child,

and for the girl that is
to be your son's wife,

and for the child
that will be your grandchild.

Pray for the woman and children
that are bereaved.

Pray for all white people,

those who do justice,

and those who would do justice
if they were not afraid,

and do not fear to pray for your son,

and for his amendment.

I hear you.

Here's someone to see you.

-When you've finished, I'll be in my room.
-No, no, please don't go!



I'm sorry that I spoke such angry words.

I've come to speak to you
about the matter of the lawyer.


Umfundisi, I know how it is.

Will you not sit down?

When my work goes wrong,
I… hurt myself and I hurt others also,

and then I grow ashamed,

and then that's why I'm here.

Do you understand?

I understand.

I understand completely.

[father Vincent] As for the lawyer,

I know just the man.

I'm ready to help you
wherever my help is needed.

[voices in street]

I've heard nothing from him, umfundisi.

What I have to say is heavy.

You believe in nothing now.

He is in prison.

In prison?

In prison for the most terrible deed
a man can do.

He has killed a white man.


Can you read, my child?

[Kumalo] The white people's newspaper?

-[Mary] A little.
-I will leave it with you…

But do not show it to others.

Shame is enough.

I shall not show it to others, umfundisi.

Do you wish to marry my son?

It is as the umfundisi sees it.

I'm asking you, my child.

I can be willing.

I do not wish to take you
if you are not willing.

I am willing!

[Kumalo] How did you live
after you ran away from your mother?

Did you live alone?

No, not alone.

With your first, um… husband?


How many have there been?

Only three.

What happened to the first?

He was caught, umfundisi.

To the second?

-He was caught also.
-And now the third is caught also…

But now it is for murder!

-Have you had a murderer before?
-No! No!

-Will you take a fourth husband?
-No, I want no husband anymore!

Not even if I desired you?

-Yes, I.

No, it would not be right!

[Kumalo] Was it right before?

No, it was not right.

Then would you be willing?

I could be willing.

[Mary sobs]

I'm sorry, my child.

I should not have asked such a question.

[Mary] I did not know what to say.

I knew you would not know.

Tell me…

Do you truly wish to marry my son?

I wish it.

[Kumalo] Greatly?


I must say one more hard thing to you.

[Mary] I'm listening, umfundisi.

We live in a quiet place.

What would you do in such a place
when desire is upon you?

You need not be afraid for me.

Quietness is what I desire.

I understand you.

I want one promise from you.

[Mary] Yes, umfundisi?

If you should ever repent of this plan,

do not shut it up inside you,
or run away as you did from your mother.

Promise to tell me that you have repented.

I promise.

I shall never repent.

You must not live here.

Shall I find a place for you near me?

I would wish that, umfundisi.

Let it be soon.

[Kumalo] Stay well, my child.

[man] But these two say
that they were not there!

They are lying.

But you have heard others say
that they were not there?

[Absolom] They are lying as well.

Yet the woman Mkize says
they were with her.

She is lying also.

[judge] Was this revolver loaded
when you bought it?

It had two bullets.

How many bullets
when you went to the house?

-[Absolom] There was one bullet.
-What happened to the other?

I fired it in the plantation
past Alexandra.

What did you fire at?

[Absolom] A tree.

Did you hit this tree?

Yes, I hit it.

Then you thought,
"Now I can fire this revolver"?

Yes, that is what I thought.

And you thought, "Now I can kill a man"?

[Absolom] No!
No, I did not want to kill a man!

-I did not mean to kill.
-But you did kill him.


I killed him.

[birds singing]

[Margaret] Is the master here?

In the study, madam.

[Margaret] James?

Yes, dear?

[Margaret] This can't go on,
James, every day, every day.

What can't go on, dear?

[Margaret] This reading, thinking…


My dear, I wasn't suffering.

It was only my pride that was suffering.

I'm learning.

I'm a hard master.

Was it something he wrote, James?

Got me on the raw.

You know… I turned stubborn.

Shall I show you?

-Come on, dear.

[voices and traffic in street]

[man and woman laughing]

[door slams]

[laughter stops]

A child here, you there
laughing like an empty woman.

I shall be glad to leave Johannesburg.

I do not know what to do in this place.

It is not only this place.

You can find it in any place!

It is the place.

I shall be glad to be gone.

I was listening to
the Black sisters, and now,

I've a feeling to become a nun.

Ah, that is a hard thing.

I've not yet decided,

but if I did…

-Would you care for my child?
-Indeed I would.

As though he were your own?

Indeed so, as though he were my own.

[birds singing]

[Jarvis] What do you want, umfundisi?

Are you ill, umfundisi?

Are you ill, umfundisi?

Do you want water?

Or food?

Are you hungry?

No, umnumzana.


I shall recover.

[walking stick clatters to floor]

Thank you, umnumzana.

I'm sorry.

[Kumalo] I'm sorry to detain you,

It is no matter.

Yes, this is the place.


There's a man named Sibeko in Ndotcheni.

This man had a daughter who worked
for the wife of Usmith in Ixopo.

Yes, yes?

When the daughter of Usmith married,
she came to Springs…

-And Sibeko's daughter came with her.


Sibeko has not heard of his daughter
these last nine, twelve months.


I shall enquire.

I know you, umfundisi.

There is something between you and me,
umfundisi, but I do not know what it is.

I do not know, but I desire to know.

You need not be in fear of me.

I doubt if I could tell, umnumzana.

You must tell it, umfundisi.

Is it heavy?

It is the heaviest thing of all my years.

Tell it, then.

It may lighten you.

I am afraid.

I see you are afraid.

If it is my anger of which you are afraid,
you need not be afraid.

There will be no anger in me against you.


this thing that is the heaviest thing
of all my years

is the heaviest thing of all yours also.

You can mean only one thing.

It is my son that killed your son.

[Jarvis gasps]

[Jarvis] I have heard you.

I understand.

There is no anger in me.

You had no thought that I would be here,
the house of the daughter of Usmith.

How did you know me?

I've seen you riding past Ndotcheni,

past the church where I work.

[Jarvis] Then perhaps you saw
the boy also.

He too used to ride past Ndotcheni.

I remember.

There was a brightness in him.

[Jarvis] Yes.

There was a brightness in him.


It is a hard word to say.

My heart holds deep sorrow

for you, for the mistress,

for the young woman and for the children.

[Jarvis] Yes, yes.

Yes, yes, I suppose…

[muffled voices]

She says, umfundisi, she does not know.

Thank you, umnumzana.

Stay well, umnumzana.

Go well, umfundisi.

Good day, umnumzana.

Go well, umfundisi.

Go well.

Why are you so disturbed, James?

Why were you so disturbed
when you came into the house?

Something that came out of the past.

You know how it comes… suddenly.

I know.

Barbara wants us for lunch.

[judge] After long
and earnest consideration,

after testing and re-testing the evidence,

I find that the guilt of accused numbers
two and three is not established.

Therefore, I find you,

Matthew Kumalo,

not guilty,
and you are accordingly discharged.

You gave your evidence like a man.

And I find you, Johannes Pafuri,

not guilty,
and you are accordingly discharged.

[judge] I find you, Absolom Kumalo,

guilty of the murder
of Arthur Trevelyan Jarvis

at his residence in Parkwold

on the afternoon
of the eighth day of October.

Have you anything to say
before I pronounce sentence?

I killed this man.

I did not mean to kill him,

only I was afraid!

[clerk] Silence!

I sentence you,

Absolom Kumalo,

to be returned to custody

and to be hanged by the neck
until you are dead.


And may the Lord have mercy
upon your soul.

[Absolom] Oh!

[Absolom wails]

[clerk] Silence in the court!

[Absolom sobs]

-[John] Thank you!
-[man] Congratulations.

Thank you, my friend.

[man 2] My friend, I congratulate you.

[John] Thank you,
my friend, it was justice.

Justice? Is that what I heard you say?

There was a case and a judge.

Such a thing is not for you or me

or any other person.

Keep your word in your mouth,

and when you open it again
in your great meetings,

with your great bull voice,
spare us your talk of truth and justice.

Where can I wash my hand?


Let us go.

Yes, let us go.

One thing I want to say
about the sentence,

it can't bring the dead back,
but it was right, absolutely right.

I'm only sorry the other two got off.

The crown made a mess of the case.

They should have hammered
that woman Mkize.


I felt that way too.

Well, goodbye Harrison.

-Goodbye Jarvis.
-Bye John.

-Goodbye sir.
-Oh, John… This is for you.

No, read it when I'm gone.

Thank you again, Harrison.

[Harrison] It was nothing.

[chatter and train engine]

A thousand pounds!

Helen of Troy! A thousand pounds!

[father Vincent]
In the name of the Father…

-[Absolom] In the name of the Father…
-And of the Son…

-[Absolom] And of the Son…
-And of the Holy Ghost…

-[Absolom] And of the Holy Ghost.

[Absolom] Amen.

Now kneel down.

Join your hands together.

[father Vincent] Those whom God
hath joined together

let no man put asunder.

I pronounce that they be
man and wife together

in the name of the Father,

and of the Son,

and of the Holy Ghost.


I'm glad you're married, my son.

I also am glad, my father.

I shall care for your child, my son,

even as if it were my own.

When does my father return to Ndotcheni?

Tomorrow, my son.


Yes, tomorrow.

And you will tell my mother
that I remember her?

And my father?

Yes, my son?

I have money in the post office book.
Nearly four pounds is there.

It is for the child.

They will give it to my father
at the office. I have arranged for it.

And my father?

Yes, my son?

If the child is a son,

I should like his name to be Peter.


Yes, I should like it to be Peter.

And if it is a daughter?

Oh, if it is a daughter,

I have not thought of any name.

If I were back in Ndotcheni,
I should not leave it again.

Be of courage, my son.

[Absolom cries]

[Absolom] I'm afraid of the hanging!

I'm afraid of the hanging!

Old man, you must go now.

I am going, sir.

I am going, sir,
but give us a little time longer.

Well… only a little time longer.

[Absolom] I'm afraid of the hanging!

[Absolom sobs]

Dry your tears.

[Absolom sobs]

-I must go now, my son.
-[Absolom sobs]

My son!

-I must go now!
-[Absolom sobs]

[Absolom] You must not leave me!

You must not leave me! No!

[Absolom] No!



You must not leave me!

You must not leave me!

[Absolom sobs]


It's coming at last, yes?

I hope so, Frank.

How's Margaret today?

She's not well, Frank.

And yet,

the old parson's allowed
to come back here.

Yes, I know the bishop's moving him,
but why was he allowed to come back at all

when every man, woman, and child
in the countryside knows what happened?

It's insult to injury!

-It was our injury, Frank.
-It wasn't your injury!

It was an injury to us all.

If that wasn't enough,
he brings back this girl,

his son's wife.
She's going to have a child.

Why? So that murder can go on?

How can you say that, Frank?
You know the man they've gone to?

I haven't had that pleasure.

-I know the scum he's produced already!

-[Jarvis] I can't listen to you, Frank.
-I am not quite finished.

Barbara says you gave a thousand pounds
to some Black boys' club.

Spend half your time down at Ndotcheni.

[Frank] I hear your grandson
is always down there too.

I hear you're going to build
a Black paradise.

Do you remember what
you used to say about Ndotcheni?

[Jarvis] I remember.

You and Margaret lose your son.

You go to Johannesburg.

You go through the whole damnable business
and then you come back and pay out!

Do you know what it looks like?

A kind of conscience money.

Well… I wouldn't have put it that way,
but I'll accept it.

And what gave you the idea?

My son.



You mean

after he was dead?


My God.

You see, Frank,

I never understood the boy,
and when this happened,

I thought I would never understand.

Then… I did.

They say I'm going crazy.

Yes, they do.

Is that what you think, Frank?

James, I'll go.



Open the window.

-[bird crowing]

Call Dr. Jackson!

-Grace, where's the master?
-[Grace] I do not know.

Father! Father!

[Mary] James!


-Yes, mother?
-Where's grandpa?

[James] What's the matter?

It's grandmother, James.


[Margaret] Yes, Doctor, it's raining
very hard, but I'm very anxious.

[bird crowing]


I am too late?

[Mary sobs]

[boys shout]


Where is the umfundisi?

He is there, in the church.


Umfundisi, she is dead.

[Kumalo] Not one of us must be left.

I… and my wife,

my sister's child, my daughter-in-law,

even the child that is coming.

How else could it be?

My son killed his son.

Now… he has killed the mother also.


Perhaps I could speak to you?

I know this man.

He goes where he goes
and no man can turn him.

Who sent the milk to you?

Who was here today in your church?

You are right.

You are right.

Do you know what he asked?

"Is there mercy?"

If only I could go there,

but the white people would be there
standing about the house,

who would ask,
"What do you want, old man?"

Who would think that this old man
also wishes to stand about the house.

It is not the custom.

You could write a letter.

You could make flowers,

the way the white people do.


They use white flowers, umfundisi.

Arum lilies.

I know where they grow.


Your flowers were of great beauty.


There is one thing you should know.

My wife was already suffering
when we went to Johannesburg.

It was one of her last wishes

that a new church be built in Ndotcheni.

I have seen the bishop,
and you are not to go away.

How could you go?

For what did my son die
if you were to go away?

This is the night.

-When will it be?

When the sun rises.

One thing is about to be finished…

but here is something that has only begun,

and while I live it will continue.


Do not go before I have thanked you

for all the things you have done. For--

I knew a man who was in darkness,
until you found him.

Of all the white men I have known…

I am no saintly man!

Of that, I cannot speak,

but God put his hands on you.

That may be.

That may be.

Umfundisi, go well,
and this night, stay well.

Go well!

Go well.

[choral singing]