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Cry, the Beloved Country
MIRAMAX FILMS WORLD PREMIERE October 23, 1995 at the Zeigfield Theatre in New York City

Nelson Mandela, President of South Africa:

Some time back I had a very cruel experience, and I have since become very cautious when I feel that I have made some impact on an occasion. As you know, I once practiced law and in my face at trial I thought that a brilliant lawyer had arrived on the scene who was going to shake at the foundations of the law. I collected almost every authority I knew as I went to the courtroom and paraded these volumes on the table and then the proceedings started. And at the end of them the magistrate said, "I am finding the accused not guilty," and I began swelling with pride, as I'm tempted to do after this warm applause that I have got. But the magistrate then added, "I have found the accused not guilty -- not because, but in spite of you." And he said, "The authorities that you have quoted here are totally irrelevant, they have nothing to do with this case, and I must confess that your whole exhibition here has been a waste of time of the court." And I left the courtroom with my tail between my legs. And I hope that the end of these proceedings, my pride will not be deflated.

Chairperson and dear friends, I was hauled by Anant Singh and my bosses a few days ago to a theater to view a film for the first time in many years and I should say, I enjoyed every moment of it. Much of what is portrayed in Cry, the Beloved Country evokes such strong emotions about the terrible past from which South Africa has just emerged. Cry, the Beloved Country, however, is also a monument to the future. One of South Africa's leading humanists, Alan Paton, vividly captured his eloquent faith in the essential goodness of people in his epic work. A goodness that helped manage this small miracle of our transition, and arrested attempts by the disciples of apartheid to turn our country into a wasteland. An attribute that is at the foundation of our people's nation-building effort, Paton was right, in his time and circumstances, to despair at seeing no peaceful way beyond the oppressors denial of the humanity of the majority. Though he could not himself come to terms with the necessity of armed resistance, he recognized its inevitability.

When he gave evidence in mitigation in our trial he acknowledge that the accused had had only two alternatives, and I quote, "...to bow their heads and submit or to resist by force." Cry, the Beloved Country is a film that for my generation, will evoke bittersweet memories of our youth. Urbanization was costly and painful, but the sweetness of an emerging urban culture in the township and Sophiatown now and then overcame the stench of decay. Such was the case of both in social life and in the rudiments of working class and political and intellectual political organization. In a sense, Cry, the Beloved Country represents a tribute to South Africa's youth, for they bore the brunt of the dislocation that apartheid organization brought on our communities.

It is for this reason that they become the torch bearers under the most trying circumstances. When democratic South Africa was able for the first time to celebrate their bravery and affirm its confidence in them on June 16 last year, I took the opportunity to announce the setting up of our Children's Fund, thus we could help redeem our children's suffering by joining them in building a happy tomorrow. The Fund aims to contribute, in a humble manner to the elevation of the plight of young people who are homeless, those who have not had the benefit of formal education, and those in detention or prison.

At midnight one day, I came out of a well-known Cape Town hotel and a group of about 15 to 20 street children came running towards me and security, as it was their duty, tried to prevent them. I appealed to security to allow the children through. And the first question they asked: "Why do you love us?" There was a lot of meaning behind that question because they were saying, "We are outcasts of society, nobody gives us parental love, happiness and security. We have no future." I therefore took the question seriously and I said, "How do you know I love you?" They said, "When you got money overseas, you shared that with us." They meant the Nobel Peace Prize. I then said, "I am not the only person who loves you. Practically every South African loves you, including your mothers and fathers, wherever they are." But the problem is that they did not have the fortune that I had of getting some money without working for it, and I could therefore afford to share it with you. You have to see those children at midnight, with hunger written across their faces, their bodies, tiny bodies covered by rags, filth, but never-the-less as human beings. It is that situation which has made many South African's contribute to the Children's Fund, because they are aware that they have to contribute in order to make the future of these outcasts of society, the future of our country, to feel that they can play a positive role in serving the nation.

Today's premiere of Cry, the Beloved Country confirms once more our confidence in the future. It is causes such as this which brings to the fore, men and women of good will and talent -- Anant Singh, Darrell Roodt, Vusi Kunene, Leleti Khumalo -- and others belong in that category and with them most profoundly for this most fine work of art. The talent and creativity that was virtually unrecognized under apartheid is able today to shine combined with the skill and experience of compassionate friends of South Africa, such as James Earl Jones, and Richard Harris, this film and its messages reinforced our friendship across oceans and adds value to the treasure house of culture in general.

We thank all those who contributed in this film for your generosity. You have not only identified the difficulties issuing from the past, but by setting the scene for the launch tonight of friends of the Children's Fund you are contributing to finding the answers. We are grateful for your efforts. By investing in the youth, you are investing in the future. I thank you.

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