The white man in Africa never gets no respect.
South African school teacher Ben du Toit (Donald Sutherland) seeks justice for the murder of a black boy in this political drama set against the backdrop of apartheid. When his gardener’s son is killed by a vicious police officer, Ben hires lawyer Ian Mackenzie (Marlon Brando) to prosecute the man. With the outcome of the case a foregone conclusion, Mackenzie butts heads with the system at every turn while Ben suffers personal alienation.
A Dry White Season is a story that shows a man who can no longer close his eyes to the injustice system that is happening so wrong around him. It also does contain a lot about the South African’s lifestyles and the difference of the whites and the blacks that inhabit South Africa. This film does do a great job at showing the whole spectrum of Africa and not just a few white descenders.
The one thing I lied about the film which may be a bad thing for some people is that it’s very graphic in its depiction of the brutality that goes on in South Africa. He shows children being harmed, adults being beaten, and shows all the scrapes and scars in their entirety and doesn’t shy away and show movie injuries, and that’s what I think makes the film a whole lot more effective and true.
The film falls a bit short for me because it relies too heavily on cinematic conventions. What I mean is that instead of focusing on a sweeping indictment of Apartheid and living conditions in the townships, the film tries treats Jurgen Prochnow’s character simply as “the bad guy,” and the movie suffers for it.
The music which I do not get very discouraged about was a big problem for me. This gave me the wrong feel during certain scenes where more current use of scoring techniques would have been more appropriate.
The acting in this film is superb. Donald Sutherland is up for the challenge and shows what it feels like to be an average white man who just won’t stand for the disgrace any longer, and creates a powerful but sympathetic portrait. Marlon Brando is amazing in his very brief performance and I think was misused as along with Susan Sarandon. Both show that they can act but they just weren’t given the right amount of screen action, and when you have two big name actors heavily titled on the posters they should be in the film more.
Consensus: A Dry White Season is a heavy-handed but very powerful film about the apartheid in South Africa that doesn’t shy away from showing the true reality of their lifestyles.