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

Awesome Shots From Around South Africa!

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We live in a country rich with beauty + vibrant with culture. Our people are from all walks of life + they are the ones our films are for. We’re restoring vintage films from the 70’s + 80’s. The films were a way of escape during the harsh Apartheid years. Our current blog series – “What Was Happening When” – delves more into what was going on in the country during the years the films were made. You can clearly see the contrast between reality + escapism. These movies were a way to show a lighter side of life for viewers. Now, thanks to Gravel Road, we are bringing them back to the public. We have showed at some of the biggest film festivals in the world, including The Berlin Film Festival, The Carthage Film Festival, The Lumiere Film Festival, as well as at museums such as New York’s world-famous MoMA. We have also been at art screenings around South Africa, on South Africa’s Broadcasting Network (SABC) + on CNBC Africa. We have been written about in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, Filmmaker Africa + more publications. People are sitting up + paying attention. Read more on our journeys around the world here on our blog: the category drop down menu on the right sidebar is easy to use. Subscribe to our newsletter by signing up to follow the blog. You will receive exclusive content such as news about specials, film screenings, DVD releases + behind-the-scenes photos of our team at work in our studios at Cape Town’s Waterfront. In the meantime, enjoy some photos from around South Africa, sourced from Pinterest + Google. Follow our story on Facebook here.

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