A Dry White Season (1989)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Set in South Africa during the mid '70s when apartheid was still the norm, this provocative drama centers on a white schoolmaster's gradual awakening to the horrors of government-sanctioned racism.
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:


Donald Sutherland
as Ben du Toit
Marlon Brando
as Ian McKenzie
Winston Ntshona
as Gordon Ngubene
Zakes Mokae
as Stanley Makhaya
Susan Sarandon
as Melanie Bruwer
Janet Suzman
as Susan du Toit
Jürgen Prochnow
as Capt. Stolz
Thoko Ntshinga
as Emily Ngubene
Susannah Harker
as Suzette du Toit
Leonard Maguire
as Mr. Bruwer
Rowen Elmes
as Johan du Toit
Gerard Thoolen
as Col. Viljoen
Stella Dickin
as Susan's Mother
David de Keyser
as Susan's Father
John Kani
as Julius
Sophie Mgcina
as Margaret
Precious Thiri
as Wellington
Derek Hanekom
as Viviers
Michael Gambon
as Magistrate
Paul Brooke
as Dr. Herzog
Ernest Ndlovu
as Archibald Mabaso
Stephen Hanly
as Sgt. Van Zyl
Andre Proctor
as Jaimie
Grant Davidson
as Lt. Venter
Ndu Gumede
as Douma
Sello Maake
as Johnson Seroke
Charles Pillai
as Dr. Hassiem
Rosemary Martin
as Mrs. Beachley
Willie Zweni
as Aubrey Kunene
Mannie de Villiers
as Police Commandant
Anna Manimanzi
as Soweto Girl
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Critic Reviews for A Dry White Season

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (11)

Searing, powerful and eye-opening.

Full Review… | September 28, 2015
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

This film is unblinking in its depiction of the most violent side of apartheid.

Full Review… | September 28, 2015
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

This is filmmaking meant to engage the heart -- and other visceral organs -- more than the mind; its effects are simple, broad and directly put.

Full Review… | September 28, 2015
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

The relentless plot is effectively set up and expertly pursued, and Hugh Masekela makes some striking contributions to Dave Grusin's musical score.

Full Review… | October 7, 2012
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

It's filled with obvious, earnest performances--Marlon Brando's ironic and subtle one is the only exception--and unresonant writing.

Full Review… | October 7, 2012
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

A wrenching picture about South Africa that makes no expedient compromises with feel-good entertainment values, A Dry White Season displays riveting performances and visceral style.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for A Dry White Season


***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***

Steve Smith
Steve Smith

Very good! Important movie released before the apartheid was over in South Africa that shows us a little bit of the atrocities caused by such a cruel regime. Good movie that is unknown to most people.

Bruno Lot
Bruno Lot

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. 8/10=Matinee!!!!

Danny ONeill
Danny ONeill

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