Bringing Lost African Gems Straight to your Living Room on Mzansi Bioscop

Gravel Road Entertainment Group’s Retro Afrika Bioscope and Mzansi Bioskop have teamed up to bring you a starlit line up of lost and forgotten South African films. Over the next couple of months, you can tune in every Sunday at 8pm to DSTV Channel 164, Mzansi Bioskop to feast your eyes on some of the most authentically South African films that was produced in the 70’s and 80’s. These films showcase all-African casts and in a number of local languages with English subtitles.

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“Umbango” will have it’s first ever TV premiere this coming Sunday. The film was produced and directed by Tonie van der Merwe, starring Popo Gumede, Hector Mathanda and Kay Magubane and is arguably one of the first all African cast isiZulu Westerns. The film was digitally restored by Gravel Road Entertainment Group and was, together with the film Joe Bullet, official selection in the Forum section at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2015. Both films had sell out audiences at the festival. “As the first producer and director of an African language film, it gives me great pride to finally get some recognition for our contribution to the South African film industry. I am proud of what we have achieved and it’s a great honour and privilege to experience this moment. It’s a shame that most of these actors such as Ken Gampu, Joe Lopez and Hector Mathanda cannot be here today to see these films on TV. Thank you again to all the actors and my colleges. I salute you!!” says Tonie van der Merwe.

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About “Umbango”
When Kay Kay, a powerful, ruthless businessman sets out on a mission of revenge against two men accused of killing his brother, he strong-arms the local sheriff into forming a posse of thugs to aid in his vendetta. But when Jet and Owen, the two easy going friends, learn of the gang out for their blood, they prepare to stand their ground and fight back. It all comes to a head in a final gun-fight, a showdown in the small western town where blood will have to be split if the friends wish to come out of this alive.

Retro Afrika Bioscope is Gravel Road Entertainment Group’s specialty release label for classic retro African content. In 2013, Gravel Road launched an initiative to locate, digitally restore and re-release films produced for the oppressed majority (African) audiences in the 70’s and 80’s under the old South African film subsidy schemes. All films being released by Retro Afrika Bioscope undergo a highly specialized digital restoration process.

The line-up of films for the month of July includes, Abathumbi (Starring: Innocent Gumede and Khulekani Magubane), Zero for Zep (Starring: So Mhlanga and Khulekani Magubane), Umgulukudu (Starring: Roy Dlamini and Mandla Ngoya) and Thunder Valley (Starring: Roy Dlamini and Mandla Ngoya).

More information on these films are available on:
Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/retroafrika/
YouTube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCMR66tlg7C2Yp-10tHNH1SA

Finding the Forgotten Cinematic Jewels of Africa

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Gravel Road Entertainment Group is a Cape Town based entertainment company that focuses on creating quality film content. Aimed to enrich people’s lives and designed to be distributed across all market channels.

We then thought of an innovative idea to be distinct from other Film Companies and gave birth to a creatively genius idea. This is when Retro Afrika Bioscope was born. The initial idea behind this speciality release label was to locate, acquire, restore and expose once discarded and forgotten Classic African films to a whole new generation of African Cinema lovers around the world. Many of these films were banned from South African screens back then.

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These stories brought some form of elude from what was happening in South Africa during 1960 till 1990. We all know that apartheid was brutal at that time and entertainment was very minimal due to South Africa’s harsh policies.

Even though black South African actors were very exploited back then we could see from the content they were generating that they loved what they were doing and enjoyed the platform they received which means they were made for this and nothing else made them happier than being in front of the camera.

All in all, these films, filmmakers and actors created a legacy for themselves and made a historical monument which Gravel Road Entertainment Group has brought forth and allowed our generation to enjoy Mzanzi’s own film ancestors. “Mayibuye I’Retro Afrika Bioscope Mayibuye” enjoy the African Cinematic jewels!!!

Written by: Thokozile Nwebani

Tonie van der Merwe receives a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 11th Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in Port Elizabeth.

Cape Town – Tonie van der Merwe, once dubbed the father of the “black” film industry in South Africa, received the Life Time Achievement award last week at the Africa Movie Academy Awards in Port Elizabeth. Mr. van der Merwe created some 400 films in the 1970s and ’80s, including“Joe Bullet,” one of the country’s first all-black cast film.

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His movies launched the careers of many African actors and nurtured a generation of African film technicians and production hands. The majority of his films were distributed by means of an informal rural distribution network, reaching audiences estimated at in excess of hundreds of thousands.

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In 1973 the South African film Joe Bullet was banned by the apartheid government after its second screening at the Eyethu Cinema in Soweto. Though the ban was later lifted, producers never pursued another release until 2013.

The film premiered at the 2014 Durban International Film Festival. It also featured at the To Save and Project Film Preservation Festival in New York in November 2014. It was then screened at the Carthage International Film Festival in Tunisia, after which it travelled to Germany for the 65th Berlinale Film Festival in February 2015.

Established in 2005, AMAA aims to facilitate the development and relevance of African film & cinema by providing a rewards & recognition platform for filmmakers on the continent. African film makers work hard with very little and have, not through serendipity but through sheer audacity, managed to build the 3rd largest film industry in the world, and are poised to take poll position, beating America and India.

Today, African films serve as a link for Africans in the Diaspora with Africans at home. These films have the potential to serve as a shared collective experience, a reminder that Africa is a vibrant continent filled with colour, energy and possibility.

Tonie, on receiving his award, “I’ve had a good inning as a film maker and it’s probably time to pack away the cameras and lights, but I want to make one last film with an African producer. Hopefully in the near future.”

Content inspired by:

Screen Africa article 14th October 2014

AMAA website: http://www.ama-awards.com/v/index.php/amaa/about-amaa

What Was Happening When

1980 – Run For Your Life

While out on a cross-country run in unfamiliar territory, two friends  stumble upon an illegal drug operation in the woods. Soon taken hostage by the notorious drug-lord, they face the threat of becoming drug slaves themselves. Forced to work the plantation for the man known as “Cobra”, the two friends will have to rely on one another and use their wits if they wish to defeat the armed guards holding them captive.

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January

14 – The local community at Soekmekaar resists forced removal and damages the police station.

March

12 – The Nederduits Gereformeerde Kerk (NGK) together with its sister churches for Blacks (the NGK in Afrika), Coloureds (the NG Sendingkerk) and Indians (the Reformed Church in Africa), issue a statement that the Churches will bring no objection in principle should authorities judge that circumstances justify reconsideration of the Immorality Act and the Mixed Marriages Act.

April

4 – Umkhonto we Sizwe attacks the Booysens Police Station in Johannesburg with grenades, rocket launchers and AK47s.

May

2 – Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall is banned because the government fears that it might be used as a song of liberty by black school children.

June

1 – Bombs explode at Sasol One and Two and Natref Eight at Sasolburg and Secunda, with no injuries and RM58 damage. The attack was organised by Solomon Mahlangu of the Umkhonto weSizwe Special Operations.

August

Special Branch policeman Detective-Sergeant T.G. Zondi is shot at in Sobantu Village.

October

14 – The Soweto community calls for a stayaway to protest against rent increases.

November

21 – A terrorist is killed in Chiawelo and a child is injured by police in the process.