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.

Tonie Stills Linked Comp 01 (0-00-01-05)

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

Interview with Bela Sobottke

Bela Sobottke

German artist Bela Sobottke recently did some fan art of Joe Bullet after seeing the film at the Berlin Film Festival. We interviewed him for our readers.

+ Where do you live?
I live in Berlin, Germany.

+ What work do you do?
I work as a freelance comic-strip artist and graphic designer.

+ What do you like to draw/what inspires you?
I draw various stuff to pay my bills… But what I really love to draw is weird and fun genre comics. My current release KEINER KILLT SO SCHÖN WIE ROCCO is a weird western with lots of misfit characters, monsters, mutants and Apache zombies. You can catch a glimpse at https://vimeo.com/channels/2werk.
A lot of my inspiration comes from the movies, especially Exploitation and Grindhouse: Horror, Spaghetti Western, Blaxploitation… Which leads us to JOE BULLET!

+ What made you fall in love with Joe Bullet?
I saw JOE BULLET at the Berlinale (along with UMBANGO). I was instantly hooked by the cool characters, the tough action, the charismatic lead actor Ken Gampu, the groovy music (If you release the Soundtrack I’m the first to buy it) and the Blaxploitation feeling paired with that specific african vibe. Plus there is the special background story about JOE BULLET, the inhuman Apartheid circumstances, the ban, the myth… and finally the rediscovery. When Benjamin Cowley mentioned the sequel BULLET ON THE RUN after the screening, I immediately had this movie poster on my mind…

+ What is a quote you live by?
“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Hunter S. Thompson

Joe Bullet fan art

What People Say About Us on Twitter

framegrab from "Gone Crazy"

framegrab from “Gone Crazy”

Retro Afrika Article in “Variety” Magazine

Lumiere2014

Lumiere 2014

Reblogged from Variety.com, Benjamin Cowley discusses the ramp up of the classic film scene in South Africa

Gravel Road Entertainment Group CEO Benjamin Cowley said he was drawn to African films because the market for them, particularly ones from the late twentieth century, is on the rise. As the head of Gravel Road, which was founded in 2012 and has recently launched an initiative to acquire and restore African films, Cowley is paving a path to respond to market demand for the cultural films. It mainly focus on restoring South African films prior to the 1990s.

Gravel Road will make its first appearance at the Grand Lyon Lumière Film Festival this year. Their presence also makes the Capetown-based group the only company from Africa exhibiting at the Festival.

What led to this renaissance of films in South Africa being distributed?

In the ’70s and the ’80s there was just this spew of production because the government created a film subsidy that promoted the production of film. There were two subsidies: one that was geared toward white films being produced for white audiences and there was one for black audiences. The idea behind that was to create entertainment for the majority of the population to keep their minds off of any form of political unrest.

So, the whole black film industry came out of nowhere and kind of outshone what was happening in the white film industry. There was just a massive content being produced and we found that there were filmmakers at the time who were inspired about what was happening in Hollywood at the time.

How do you identify restoration projects?

We take anything really that was produced on the preservation aspect of the project. Once we scan the films then we make the call on whether or not there’s a commercial life on the film. But first and foremost we’re looking out for the preservation side.

How do you go about acquiring distribution rights for films?

That’s quite a tricky one. Because of the nature of the content, it being so old, we often are faced with the challenge of identifying or finding the original producers of the film. So we have a dedicated research team whose job it is to track down these films and once they track down the films then they got to track down the owners. We’re pretty aggressive with that.

How long does it take to restore films?

The fastest is typically two weeks. The average is four to six weeks. The extreme is sitting on eight weeks. “Joe Bullet” was the extreme and that actually, if I’m not mistaken, took 14 weeks.

What are some of the key projects you all have had?

“Joe Bullet” – it’s been coined South Africa’s first Blaxploitation film. It’s based off of the American Blaxploitation film “Shaft,” which was made in 1973. That’s kind of the project which we launched ourselves with.

Do you have a special competitive edge in the international market because of the technology you use or the price that they go for?

We have the only restoration facility in the Southern Hemisphere. The other competitive edge that we have is that we’re the only ones dealing in African content. Africa has a booming industry, especially the former French colonies.

But by our restoring all these old movies we’re restoring them at a faster pace than that at which new content is being produced and therefore the content is quite popular among African audiences.

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