Hudson and Poitier play boyhood friends who grow up with opposite loyalties in the colonization of Kenya, East Africa. Hudson is on the side of English farmers who want to harvest the land but understands that this is an issue with shades of gray. He realizes that harmony will prevail
only if the white settlers come to an understanding with the local tribes. The differences between the two cultures are not so easily settled, though, as the downtrodden tribesmen begin staging violent raids on the English settlers. Settlers are ruthlessly killed while Poitier battles his own
emotions as he finds himself caught between his white friends and his people. Eventually the tensions build into an explosive and bloody climax as Poitier struggles for the Mau Mau cause before finally giving in to authority.
This is a film brimming with strong performances by its ensemble. At the heart of the story is Poitier, a native African caught between the English settlers and his tribesmen. His performance is well controlled and deeply moving. Brooks' direction weaves together some very difficult elements with
skill and care. Beginning with a filmed prolog of Winston Churchill discussing the real-life Mau Mau raids, Brooks roots the film in reality. The location shooting in East Africa lends a great deal to this, as do the gruesomely detailed scenes of Mau Mau rituals. Marshall's character of a tribal
chieftain reportedly takes some basis from Jomo Kenyatta, an African Kikuyu leader. Though the story is fiction, the film rings true, with a fair portrait of both sides of the conflict.
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