It can effectively be argued that the most powerful scene from the 1987 film Cry Freedom is that representing the student march in the Soweto uprising of June 16, 1976.
The scene opens with a close shot of a dirt road in the foreground, which curves to the rise of a hill in the background. The background hilltop is filled, Fellini-style, with the figures of innumerable upper-level school children (little ones were meant to stay at school and not march) joyfully striding toward the curving dirt road. The curve can be said to symbolize the unexpected obstacles awaiting them out of sight.
As the scene moves on, we see that the children on the hilltop are striding to join the solid mass of shoulder-to-shoulder students already on the dirt road. The students are jumping and dancing and singing, jubilant in their unity of peaceful protest. All the while the first part of the scene progresses, more and more students flood into the crushing throng from more and more directions, yielding the perception of unimagined multitudes of children congregating with spirit, energy, and joy on one dirt road.
The second part of the scene—unified with the first part because the camera shifts to the point of view of the students by looking out from above the throng over tops of shoulders and heads—metaphorically rounds the curve as we see what the children have been seeing: a wall of police, military, and vehicles filling the road ahead.
Warnings to disperse and go home are not heeded, teargas bombs are shot above the crowd, the first officer to send a live round into the crowd fires, and the first child dies. Mayhem ensues. Child after child is shot in the back, fleeing, protest subsumed in bullets. In a dramatic recreation, an actor playing heroic eighteen-year-old Mbuyisa Makhubo carries a younger actor playing the shot and killed thirteen-year-old Hector Pieterson, with Pieterson's sister running alongside, fearful her brother was being abducted. Makhubo runs toward medical help, trying in vain to save Hector's life.
For anyone who saw first-hand the lives of school children of African ethnicity in South Africa during apartheid, the filmed scene of up to 10,000 school children dressed in pressed school uniforms, singing the song of Africa's freedom ("Nkosi Sikelel’iAfrika," meaning "Lord Bless Africa," which is now in South Africa's national anthem), and in that street-engulfing throng of protest, carries a powerful and chilling strain of truth underlying anguished reality.
[From an interview given by Sithole Pieterson, sister of Hector Pieterson, to Aryn Baker in Soweto for TIME USA on June 15, 2016:]
From her position on the edge of the crowd, Sithole [Pieterson] saw a man run past with a body in his arms. “The first thing that I spotted was my brother’s shoes,” she says. Confused, Sithole caught up with him. “Who are you?” she demanded. “This is my brother. I’ve been looking for him. Where are you taking him?” But the man just kept on running. Sithole, desperate to keep up, looked more closely at the limp body in his arms. “I saw blood coming from the side of the mouth. I panicked. ‘Can’t you see he’s hurt?’” she shouted at the man. “Who are you, where are you taking him?”
A car screeched to a halt in front of them to transport the boy to a nearby medical clinic, but it was already too late. “He’s dead,” the man told Sithole, as he placed the body in the car.