I couldn't believe my eyes. A Hollywood-looking film set in my, of all places, Harare neighborhood. Parked trucks; gear (lights, camera tracks, audio recording devices, so on and so on); lots of people doing this and that. After watching this activity, I gathered the courage to ask a tall man standing with a walkie-talkie what was cutting. A film, he says. I can see that, I say, but what kind of movie is going down? It's a big one, he says. His walkie-talkie erupts. He listens. It doesn't concern him. Someone else is called for. We resume talking.

The film has real movie stars, he claims. "From America?" I ask. Yes, America. The name of the film? A Dry White Season. The name of the stars? Marlon Brando, Susan Sarandon, and Donald Sutherland. My amazement is as bright as the sun in the sky. How is this even possible? A film with real Hollywood stars, only a K or two from my digs. I spot Donald Sutherland exiting a car. I just can't believe my eyes.

A few days later, I was on the film set for A Dry White Season. Connection of a connection of a connection got me a small job as a helping hand for the person working for the person working for the cinematographer (Pierre-William Glenn or Kelvin Pike?). That's how it happens in Harare, and, to be honest, the rest of the world.

So, there I am in the middle of a massive movie set. Donald Sutherland is doing a scene. He has to walk from the door of the house (lights all around him) to the mailbox. Something bad is about to happen. The story requires some tension in this scene. And here, I learn what this art is all about. How it all comes together on the screen. The machine behind the grand illusion. Action is called by the director, Euzhan Palcy; Sutherland, playing a Boer, Ben Du Toit, opens the door, walks out of the house, and walks to the mailbox. Cut. He walks back into the house. Closes the door. He has to do it all over again. Action! Cut! He has to do it again, and again, and again. Finally, the director is happy with what she's got. Sutherland relaxes and talks with the director as people prepare for the same shot but from a different position.

All of this happened in the fall of 1987. Donald Sutherland, the great actor, died today at the age of 88.

The news of his parting sent me back not only to the Harare set of A Dry White Season—the first Hollywood-financed flick directed by a Black woman, thus making Sutherland the first (as far I can tell) white Hollywood actor directed by a Black woman—but to the dinner I had with him and the production team at a Chinese restaurant in Harare. It was on, if my memory is true, the second floor of a building in a strip-mall. My sister, who also finagled a small job on the film, was also at this dinner, at the table with Sutherland. He kept asking us questions about the city. He was too busy to explore Harare. What could we tell him about it? We told him everything we could. 

Not long after that dinner, after I left Harare, I saw him on Sounds on Saturday—a show that featured music videos. How had I forgotten he's the father in my favorite Kate Bush tune, "Cloudbusting"? Indeed, "I wake up crying..." Goodnight, Sutherland. I will always remember you.