Why We’re Special

Tonie Van Der Merwe

We take old films from South African history + restore them. Cool huh? We also locate the directors + give them awards 🙂

Unknown among his fellow white South Africans, Tonie van der Merwe was the most popular filmmaker among black audiences in the 1970s and ’80s. He churned out about 400 movies under an apartheid subsidy system established to produce movies exclusively for blacks — with the right political and moral content. In fact, he helped create the system.

After his speech at the Durban International Film Festival, gripping a statuette in one hand and a double brandy and Coke in the other, he said: “Without being racist, I thought a white guy won’t easily win a prize, but I was wrong. I thought anything before the 1990s is not easily recognized by the present government. We didn’t exist. We didn’t do anything.”

Mr. van der Merwe created some 400 films in the 1970s and ’80s, including “Joe Bullet,” the country’s first film with an all-black cast. Credit Joao SilvaThe New York Times

Mr. van der Merwe created some 400 films in the 1970s and ’80s, including “Joe Bullet,” the country’s first film with an all-black cast. Credit Joao Silva/The New York Times

Residents of Kwamashu watching “Joe Bullet” this month. The film, released in 1972, was banned after only two showings. Credit Joao Silva/The New York Times

Residents of Kwamashu watching “Joe Bullet”. The film, released in 1972, was banned after only two showings. Credit Joao Silva/The New York Times

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