skip navigation


TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here

Remind Me

TCMDb Archive MaterialsView all archives (0)


powered by AFI

The opening credits are all listed before the film's title. Although the credits include a 1956 copyright statement for Moral Re-Armament, the film was not included in the Copyright Catalog. The opening title cards read: "Moral Re-Armament presents A story of modern Africa written and acted by Africans." A dedication reads: "Filmed in Africa in authentic settings through the gracious co-operation of Their Highnesses Sir Ladapo Ademola, Alake of Abeokuta; Adeniji Adele II, Oba of Lagos; Aladesanmi II, Ewi of Ado Ekiti; S. Akisanya, Odemo of Ishara; Okosi II, Obi of Onitsha; and The Hon. Mr. Justice Jobling and Mrs. Jobling; Councillor and Mrs. F. S. McEwen." Other onscreen credits state that the picture was "written out of the experience and convictions of Africans from all over Africa" and that the "production unit was drawn from 12 nations."
       The picture begins with an African man, dressed in traditional clothing, addressing a large crowd, all of whom are shouting "Freedom." Voice-over narration by the man about life in Africa and its varied population is heard over a montage of scenes of contemporary village and city life throughout the country. The narration describes Africa as a place where "man traverses mankind's history in a generation, while the future with tender steps bows hesitant to the past." The scene then shifts to the fictional country of Bokondo.
       According to contemporary sources, much of the picture was shot in Nigeria. The sequences featuring Geneva, Switzerland were shot on location there. Although some contemporary sources list the film's color process as Technicolor, Eastman Colour is listed in the onscreen credits. The end credits include a title stating that while on location in Africa, the cast and technicians "gave their services and time without salary as their contribution in remaking the world."
       An February 8, 1957 Los Angeles Times article described the authors of the film's screenplay and the play on which the film is based as Manasseh Moerane, vice-president of the African Teachers Association of South Africa; Ifogahle Amata, former president of the Students' Union of Ibadan University, Nigeria; and the Honorable Abayisaa Karbo, Member of the Gold Coast Parliament. The film was credited by contemporary sources as being the first feature-length, color film written and played by Africans from all over the continent. The music was adapted from authentic African melodies by African-American James W. Owens and performed by a British orchestra accompanying choirs from Africa, Detroit and Michigan, according to contemporary articles. Modern European sources credit the film's direction to Hannen Foss, production supervision to Marion Clayton Anderson and add Kezia Fashina to the cast.
       After the picture's world premiere in Los Angeles in February 1957, Moral Re-Armament (MRA), the group that presented the film internationally, arranged a special, one-performance showing of the film there in May 1957 to benefit the group, according to a Hollywood Reporter news item. By the time Freedom opened a one-week run in Los Angeles in May 1958, it had been exhibited by MRA throughout Africa, Europe, Canada and in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco. According to an May 8, 1958 Beverly Hills-Citizen article, the picture won the Grand Prix at the French Film Festival in Lille, France. Contemporary articles about Freedom commented on its successful exhibition in Little Rock, AR, which was then the center of much controversy caused by the state governor's refusal to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court decision abolishing school segregation. The Arkansas exhibition of the film was used in the picture's advertising, with a May 7, 1958 Los Angeles Examiner ad stating: "Africa created it-Little Rock hailed it-Now...You can see it!"
       Few reviews of Freedom have been located but Hazel Flynn, writing in the February 13, 1957 issue of Beverly Hills-Citizen, stated, "Last night I experienced a movie which May change the course of my life" and gave the film a rave review. Variety, on the other hand, reviewing the film from a July 1957 screening at the Berlin Film Festival, found it "dilettantish...but it must be regarded as well-meant."
       According to a Hollywood Reporter news item, the picture was exhibited in London in October 1962 under the title Uhuru. The 1962 print was in Swahili, but the news item does not state if the print was dubbed into Swahili, if Swahili subtitles were used or if the original film had been simultaneously recorded in Swahili and English. A May 1958 Los Angeles Sentinel article noted that to that date, the picture had been "shown in 28 countries in seven languages."
       According to information in the Moral Re-Armament, Inc. Collection at the Library of Congress Manuscripts Division, MRA was organized in 1938 in London. A precursor organization, the Oxford Group, began in the early 1920s. MRA's leader was Frank Buchman, originally a Lutheran minister from Pennsylvania, who also has been said to have inspired Alcoholics Anonymous. The group did not align itself with any specific religious denomination, preferring an ecumenical approach, and included among its adherents peoples of many different faiths. Buchman achieved success in converting people to the group's ideas and goals through emotional group confessional techniques. MRA's four core teachings were absolute honesty, purity, love and unselfishness.
       In 1939, the group advocated efforts to prevent war, and following World War II, it initiated a campaign to offer an alternative to international Communism, concentrating its work in Europe, Japan, Africa, Asia and South America. Critics of the organization have associated it with pro-fascism and appeasement in regard to its attitude towards Nazi Germany. MRA attracted a number of world leaders, such as Mahatma Gandhi and West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. Gandhi has been quoted as saying, "Moral Re-Armament is the best thing that ever came from the West to the East." MRA's next film was the 1960 release The Crowning Experience. MRA was responsible for the "Up with People" musical programs of the 1960s. Buchman died in 1961, and by 1975, MRA was being phased out as an active organization, but was later revived as Initiative for Change.