By John Briley

About the author

John Briley was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the USA. He was a screenwriter, but he has also written several novels. He won an Oscar for the screenplay for "Gandhi" (1983).

In 1987 he wrote the screenplay for "Cry Freedom", film starred by Denzel Washington. The film was based on two factual books written by the South African journalist Donald Woods after he escaped from South Africa.

The film "Cry Freedom" was so popular that John Briley wrote a novel based on the screenplay. Both the film and the novel about this real story are very true to the reality.

The summary of the book

The book tells the story of Steve Biko, a young black man who fights against the government of South Africa, and his friendship with a white journalist, whose name is Donald Woods, writing for an important south african newspaper.

Book review

"Cry Freedom" is based on a true story set in the 70's in South Africa.

The plot focuses on the unfair situation of the south african apartheid. Steve Biko wants to change this situation with no violence, trying to create a cooperation between black and white people. He has got a lot of followers and become soon a leader for the black people.

His friend Donald Woods, the journalist, helps him to spread his ideas by the newspaper. As soon as they both become a big problem for the government they start to receive threats from the police. The government choose to silence them by banning them.

After some violent happenings, like the murder, without any reason, of one of Biko's friend by the police, Woods start to publish some articles with photos showing the police's brutality. After that Biko is caught and sent to prison.

One week later the police announces Biko's death. They say he died of hunger, but his friend Woods knows the true: the police had hit him until he died.

Woods achieves to see Biko's body and take some photos of it, with many bruises and broken bones.

Donald woods decides to write secretly the full true story of Biko and his death. He decides to publish the book in London because in South Africa is impossible and even very dangerous. To do that he achieves to scape to England with his wife and his five children.

Many years later, in 1997, five policeman who were involve in Biko's death were questioned.

Steve Biko has not been forgotten in South Africa, where in 1997 there was a national celebration for the twenty anniversary of his death. Thousands came to watch president Nelson Mandela unveil a statue of Biko.

I've enjoyed very much with this reading and I strongly recommend it to everybody because is very interesting to know this story not really well known around the world. The story is also a picture of Biko himself and his strong friendship with a white man.

I'm really happy to have chosen this book, first of all because of his content and also because it has been quite easy reading.

You can also watch the film based on this story, that gives a truthful account of what really happened. There is a spanish version called "Grita Libertad" starred by Denzel Washington.

Interesting vocabulary

  • To release: to free someone from captivity or inprisonment
  • Raid: a surprise visit by police searching for criminals or illicit goods
  • To whip: to strike (a person or thing) with several strokes of a strap, rod, etc
  • Threats: a declaration of the intention to inflict harm, pain, or misery
  • To chase: to follow or run after (a person, animal, or goal) persistently or quickly
  • Ban: an official prohibition or interdiction
  • Unfair: characterized by inequality or injustice
  • To starve: to die or cause to die from lack of food
  • To bribe: to promise, offer, or give something, usually money, to (a person) to procure services or gain influence, esp illegally
  • Witness: a person who has seen or can give first-hand evidence of some event
  • Warrant: anything that gives authority for an action or decision; authorization; sanction
  • Rotten: morally despicable or corrupt
  • Roadblock: a barrier set up across a road by the police or military, in order to stop a fugitive, inspect traffic, etc
  • To stab: to pierce or injure with a sharp pointed instrument
  • To bug: to conceal a microphone in (a room, etc)



Cry Freedom by Nurialopez