A Short (Cool) History of South African Cinema

African Cinema

+ During the 1910s and 1920s, many South African films were made in or around Durban. These films often made use of the dramatic scenery available in rural KwaZulu-Natal, particularly the Drakensberg region.

+ KwaZulu-Natal was also served as the appropriate location for historical films such as De Voortrekkers (1916) and The Symbol of Sacrifice (1918)

African Cinema

Sarie Marais, the first Afrikaans-language sound film, was released in 1931. Subsequent sound releases such as Die Wildsboudjie(1948), a 1949 Sarie Marais remake, and Daar doer in die bosveld (1950) continued to cater primarily to white, Afrikaans-speaking audiences.

+ The 1950s saw an increased use of South African locations and talent by international filmmakers. British co-productions like Coast of Skeletons (1956) and American co-productions like The Cape Town Affair (1957) reflected the a growing trend of shooting in real locations, rather than using backlots.

African Cinema

Uthemba

Uthemba South African Cinema
KEY CREW & CAST
Director Rudi Mayer Cast Lucas Tsiane
Producer Rudi Mayer Muntu Ndebele
Writer Rudi Mayer Aaron Mbuli
DOP Rudi Mayer Danney Maphalala
Editor N/A Anton Sibanda
Sound Frank Muller Jerry Ndabukelwayo
Y.O.P 1980’s Patrick Ntuli
Running Time 93 min Josef Mualefe
Language isiZulu Mandy Kunene
Genre Crime / Drama Patricia Mothibedi
SYNOPSIS

Themba is released from serving two years in prison for his best friend, Vusi. Upon his release, he discovers that Vusi, the car thief, has been sleeping with his girlfriend, Thandi. Themba decides to change his fate and become a snitch – helping the police put an end to Vusi’s on-going crime spree. Vusi has Thandi executed, blaming her for his current misfortunes. Themba moves the final chess piece into place, resulting in Vusi’s ultimate demise and capture.

Uthemba South African Cinema

Uthemba South African Cinema

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.

Joe Bullet

Joe Bullet South African Films

Made in 1971, this action film directed by Louis de Wit and produced by Tonie vd Merwe was shot on 16mm in Johannesburg. Banned in South Africa by the government when it originally came out, it stars Ken Gampu, Abigail Kubeka, Jimmy Sabie and Joe Lopez.

TAGLINE

In the criminal underworld of soccer, one man will have to save the championship!

SYNOPSIS

When local soccer team The Eagles fall prey to a series of onslaughts from a mysterious gangster only a week before the championship final, the team turns to the one man that can help save their chances at victory – Joe Bullet (Ken Gampu).

Joe will have to battle against villainous henchmen, escape booby-trap bombs and bring his martial arts expertise to the fore in order to survive an attack from a deadly assassin.

In the end he will have to infiltrate the mysterious gangster’s hide-out in a dangerous cat-and-mouse rescue mission to save not only The Eagles’ two kidnapped star players, but that of his beautiful love interest, Beauty (Abigail Kubeka).

The odds will be stacked against him, but he’s the man that fights crime, the man that no one can tie down! Joe Bullet!

Joe Bullet

Ezintandaneni

Ezintandaneni South African Films

Produced in 1987, this 70 minute drama was directed by Tonie vd Merwe and produced by Oubaas Olivier. The cast includes Sizwe Dlamini, Popo Gumede & Gugu Mhlanga. Be sure to watch it this Sunday night on SABC1!

TAGLINE

A moving tale involving two orphans, a widower and a beautiful social worker, and how their lives all come together at the end.

SYNOPSIS

A touching story of two families – one poor, and the other rich. A young boy and his sister, raised by their cruel and vicious stepmother, live poor and difficult lives. Beaten and starved by their stepmom, the two children only have one another for comfort
and support. Meanwhile a prominent business man, and single father, has brought his mother to stay with him to help care for his ailing daughter. A beautiful Social Worker enters the scene and befriends the two abused children, and when the wealthy business man’s daughter sadly passes away, a series of events begin to unfold, entwining  these people’s fates and bringing all them all together at the end.

Ezintandaneni South African Films