By Susan King, Los Angeles Times staff It's a country with a rich and complicated cinematic history. Over the years, South Africa has served as both an inspiration and backdrop for many compelling dramas, thrillers and yes, comedies too. Here are a few from decades past and present: 'Cry, the Beloved Country' (1951 and 1995) The first adaptation of Alan Paton's 1948 novel was a British production that starred two American actors -- Canada Lee and Sidney Poitier. Lee plays a poor black minister from the country who travels to the city to find his missing son. He discovers much more, including poverty and suffering caused by an institutional oppression that would later become apartheid. Poitier plays a young pastor who comes to Lee's aid. Because it was shot in South Africa, producer-director Zoltan Korda told the authorities that his performers were not actors but rather indentured servants, thus enabling them to freely associate with the crew. South African Darrell Roodt helmed the 1995 version starring James Earl Jones.