A Cry in the Dark, motion picture about an Australian woman falsely accused of killing her baby. Released in 1988, the film is based on the true story of Lindy Chamberlain (played by Meryl Streep), who claimed that wild dogs carried her baby away in the middle of the night. When the reserved woman does not appear to be overwrought about the child’s death, the public begins to suspect that she killed her own child, and she goes to jail for the murder. Director Fred Schepisi cuts away from the main characters to media reports, dinner parties, and filling stations, where people express their opinions about the murder trial and reveal their prejudices. Streep’s moving performance, combined with those documentary-like scenes of public commentary, make this film a powerful critique of media influence.
Schepisi came to prominence with his first major feature-length film, The Devil’s Playground (1976), which was influenced by his teenage experience of Catholicism and repressed sexuality. His next film The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978), dealt with racial conflicts between aboriginal and white inhabitants of Australia (see Aborigines). After these successes, Schepisi moved to Hollywood, California. Notable films he made there include Barbarosa (1982); Roxanne (1988); A Cry in the Dark (Australian title, Evil Angels, 1988), about the true case of a woman whose baby was allegedly taken by a dingo in the Australian outback; and Six Degrees of Separation (1993), about a young con artist who convinces upper-class residents of New York City that he is the son of American actor Sydney Poitier.