''A Dry White Season'' is a 1989 American drama film directed by Euzhan Palcy and starring Donald Sutherland, Jürgen Prochnow, Marlon Brando, Janet Suzman, Zakes Mokae and Susan Sarandon. It was written by Colin Welland and Palcy, based upon André Brink's novel ''A Dry White Season''. Robert Bolt also contributed uncredited revisions of the screenplay. It is set in South Africa in 1976 and deals with the subject of apartheid. Brando was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.


In 1976, in South Africa during apartheid, Ben Du Toit (Donald Sutherland) is a South African school teacher at a school for whites only. One day, the son of his gardener, Gordon Ngubene (Winston Ntshona), gets beaten by the white police after he gets caught by the police during a peaceful demonstration for a better education policy for black people in South Africa. Gordon asks Ben for help. After Ben refuses to help because of his trust in the police, Gordon gets caught by the police as well and is tortured by Captain Stolz (Jürgen Prochnow). Against the will of his wife Susan (Janet Suzman) and his daughter Suzette (Susannah Harker), Ben tries to find out more about the disappearance of his gardener by himself. Following the discoveries of the murders of both Gordon and his son by the police, Ben decides to bring this incident up before a court with Ian McKenzie (Marlon Brando) as lawyer but loses. Afterwards, he continues to act by himself and supports a small group of black people, including his driver Stanley Makhaya (Zakes Mokae), to interview others to promote social change. The white police notice their intentions and detain some responsible persons. To file a civil suit, Ben collects affidavits and hides the information at his house. Ben lets his son in on his plans. His son and his daughter both get to know the hiding spots, and after the police search through Ben's house, there is an explosion next to the hiding spot because the daughter betrayed it to the police, but the son saved the documents. Gordon's wife, Emily (Thoko Ntshinga), is killed when she refuses to be evicted from her home. Ben's wife and daughter leave him. The daughter offers to her father to get the documents to a safer place. They meet at a restaurant and Ben gives his daughter unbeknownst-to-her fake documents, which she delivers to Captain Stolz. Instead of giving her the documents, Ben passed her a book about art. At the end, Ben is run over by Stolz, who is later shot by Stanley in revenge.


* Donald Sutherland as Ben du Toit * Janet Suzman as Susan du Toit * Susannah Harker as Suzette du Toit * Rowen Elmes as Johan du Toit * Marlon Brando as Ian McKenzie * Susan Sarandon as Melanie Bruwer * Leonard Maguire as Prof. Bruwer * Zakes Mokae as Stanley Makhaya * Winston Ntshona as Gordon Ngubene * Thoko Ntshinga as Emily Ngubene * Bekhithemba Mpofu as Jonathan Ngubene * Jürgen Prochnow as Captain Stolz * Michael Gambon as Magistrate * John Kani as Julius * Gerard Thoolen as Colonel Viljoen * David de Keyser as Susan's father


Before production, Warner Brothers passed on the project and it went to MGM. Director Euzhan Palcy was so passionate about creating an accurate portrayal on film that she traveled to Soweto undercover, posing as a recording artist, to research the riots. Actor Brando was so moved by Palcy's commitment to social change that he came out of a self-imposed retirement to play the role of the human rights lawyer; he also agreed to work for union scale ($4,000), far below his usual fee. The salaries of Sutherland and Sarandon were also reduced and the film was budgeted at only $9 million.Collins, Glenn
"A Black Director Views Apartheid,"
''The New York Times'' (September. 25, 1989).
Euzhan Palcy became the first female director and the first black director, to direct Marlon Brando. The film was shot at Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, England and on location in Zimbabwe.


Dave Grusin composed the score that is mostly on the subtle side for the movie. There is no major theme here other than South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela's mournful flugelhorn passages during the film's saddest scenes. Kritzerland released the soundtrack on CD, featuring 15 songs from the film's soundtrack and four added "bonus tracks" (two alternative takes and two source cues). The CD of the soundtrack fails to mention contributing musicians, including Hugh Masekela, nor includes any of the three Ladysmith Black Mambazo songs (written by Joseph Tshabalala) used so prominently in the film.


The film was released at a time when South Africa was undergoing great political upheaval and regular demonstrations. The film itself was initially banned by South African censors, who said it could harm President F.W. de Klerk's attempts at apartheid reform. The ban was later lifted in September 1989 and the movie was screened at the Weekly Mail Film Festival in Johannesburg. Brando's performance in the movie earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and he received the Best Actor Award at the Tokyo Film Festival. For her outstanding cinematic achievement, Palcy received the "Orson Welles Award" in Los Angeles.

Box office

''A Dry White Season'' earned $3.8 million in the United States,''A Dry White Season''
Box Office Mojo. Accessed March 19, 2011.
against a budget of $9 million. It earned £334,314 in the UK.

Critical reception

The film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 81% of 36 critics have given the film a positive review, with a rating average of 7.1 out of 10. Brando, in his first film since 1980,Ebert, Roger
"''A Dry White Season''
" ''Chicago Sun-Times'' (September. 22, 1989).
was particularly praised for his small but key role as human rights attorney Ian McKenzie. ''Chicago Sun-Times'' critic Roger Ebert called ''A Dry White Season'' "an effective, emotional, angry, subtle movie." The ''Washington Post'''s Rita Kempley wrote that "''A Dry White Season'' is political cinema so deeply felt it attains a moral grace. A bitter medicine, a painful reminder, it grieves for South Africa as it recounts the atrocities of apartheid. Yes, it is a story already told on a grander scale, but never with such fervor." And ''Rolling Stones Peter Travers wrote that director Palcy, "a remarkable talent, has kept her undeniably powerful film ablaze with ferocity and feeling." Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare "A+" grade on an A+ to F scale.

Awards and nominations


See also

* English-language accents in film – South African


External links

* *
Movie stills''A Dry White Season: Justice Against the Law''
an essay by Jyoti Mistry at the Criterion Collection {{DEFAULTSORT:Dry White Season, A Category:1989 films Category:1989 drama films Category:American films Category:American drama films Category:American courtroom films Category:English-language films Category:South African films Category:Apartheid films Category:Films based on South African novels Category:Films scored by Dave Grusin Category:Films set in South Africa Category:Films set in 1976 Category:Apartheid in South Africa Category:Films shot at Pinewood Studios Category:Films shot in Zimbabwe Category:South African drama films Category:Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films