Retro Afrika Bioscope celebrating Heritage Day

This Saturday South Africa will be celebrating Heritage Day. And with Retro Afrika Bioscope playing such a significant role in restoring and preserving this beautiful country’s diverse film heritage it seems only fit to dedicate a blog to this awesome day!!! It’s also very important to remember where it all started and what significance it has to the people of South Africa and our rainbow nation.

The History

In an address marking Heritage Day in 1996, president Nelson Mandela stated:

“When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.”

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And thus Heritage Day was born, to be celebrated every year on the 24th September. With such a diverse culture and rather than focusing on the cultural divisions, a recent initiative by the Braai4Heritage called upon all South Africans to celebrate their common roots by having a Braai (BBQ) on Heritage Day.

Retro Afrika Bioscope has been dedicated to preserving and restoring lost and forgotten films produced in the 1980’s. These films might never have been seen by modern audiences if it wasn’t for this project. We started the long process of sourcing these films and restoring them to their former glory and today they are accessible on various platforms such as DVD and Video on Demand. In South Africa we have partnered with DSTV’s Mzansi Bioskop, channel (164) in bringing these once forgotten African Classics into your living room and this Sundays movie will be ‘Isiqalekiso’ [1980]’.

Isiqalekiso [1980’s]

After hearing a story of missing golden treasure, a group of young boys set out on an adventure to look for it. After some time, they eventually find a box believed to be the missing gold. But very soon, the group of friends is overcome with gold-fever and it’s not long before they start turning on one another. When a local thug discovers that the boys have indeed found the hidden treasure, he manages to steal it away from them, and the friends are forces to reconcile and come together in order to retrieve their find and get their own back on the thief.

So how are you going to spend your Heritage Day? If you’re living outside of South Africa. why not go onto FilmDoo, Hoopla Digital or Bigstar to browse through our catalog of movies and stream these Lost African Classics. You never know, you might find your next favorite between the rich treasures that is South Africa’s film pride and joy.

 

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

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

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

African Myths Part 3

African Myths

Anansi

The exploits of Anansi, West Africa’s great trickster-god, are described in hundreds of folktales. Usually in the form of a spider, his stories mainly deal with his attempts at fooling humans into stealing or doing something immoral that would benefit him in some way. These attempts normally fail miserably, teaching the listeners various life lessons. One tale tells of his attempt to hoard the entire world’s wisdom into a pot for himself. When he succeeded, he attempted to hide the pot at the top of a tree where nobody could find it. He tied the pot in front of him and tried to climb the tree, but progress was slow as he kept sliding and losing his grip. His son, who had followed him, finally asked him why he didn’t tie the pot to his back so that he could climb more easily. As he realized his son’s ingenuity, the pot slipped and fell to the ground. The wisdom fell out and a sudden rainstorm washed it into the river and from there to the waters of the ocean, so that everyone in the world now owns a little bit of it.

Africa

The Magic Of The Lovedu Rain Queens

To the Lovedu people of Mpumalanga, South Africa, the Rain Queen is a fundamental part of their culture and history. Called Mudjadji, the queen is said to be a living incarnation of the rain goddess. As she is the embodiment of rain, even her state of mind is said to influence the weather. The Mudjadji is also believed to be able to send storms to destroy the Lovedu’s enemies or gentle rain to nurture their friends. Every year, the Rain Queen’s powers are displayed at the Ga-Modjadji settlement during the rainmaking ceremony. The queens are all expected to commit suicide by poison at the age of 60. On that day, all of the queen’s rainmaking ingredients, prized objects, and incantations kept secret throughout her reign are passed on to her successor.

African Sky Stock

The Mysterious Queen Of Sheba

We know of the Queen of Sheba from various sources, including the Bible and the Qur’an. Whether she was a queen regent or a queen consort, we do not know. Her full name isn’t ever mentioned, but most scholars believe her kingdom may have been in the region of Ethiopia. The royal family of Ethiopia claims to be direct descendants of the child born to the queen and King Solomon. In their legends, the queen is named Makeda.

According to the Kebra Negast, the story goes that the king invited Makeda to a ceremonial feast where spicy food was deliberately served. Because she was staying the night, the queen asked Solomon to swear he wouldn’t force himself on her. He said he wouldn’t take anything from her if she didn’t take anything from him. Unfortunately, she got thirsty during the night, woke up, and reached for some water that was placed close to her bed. The king appeared, reminding her of her promise, as water was the most esteemed of all earthly possessions. The queen took the water and drank it, so setting the king free of his promise.

Thank you Barnard Gerber at ListVerse for these brilliant myths!

What Was Happening When

Hostage Waterfront Film Studios

1980 – Hostage 

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

+ Jan 25 Three Umkhonto we Sizwe terrorists, Stephen Mafoko, Humphrey Makhubo and Wilfred Madela, kill two civilians and hold the staff and customers in a bank in Silverton in Pretoria hostage. The siege ends in a shoot-out with the police in which all three terrorists are killed.

+ March 12 In Pretoria nine people are sentenced to five to seven years imprisonment for training as guerrillas outside South Africa and recruiting others to undergo training.

+ March 26 A mine lift cage at the Vaal Reefs gold mine in South Africa falls 1.9 kilometres (1.2 miles), killing 23.

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

+ April 21 More than sixty coloured high schools, teacher training colleges and the University of the Western Cape start boycotting classes.

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

+ Oct 15 A bomb damages a railway line in Dube, Soweto and Piet Koornhof, minister of co-operation and development, visits the scene.

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

Facts About Film

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Following us but know nothing about film? Here are a few facts:

+ Feature Films are the long format, fictional (non-factual) films you see in cinemas. They are called long format because they are longer than most other forms of film making – anything between 80 minutes and four hours, with 90 minutes being the average length.

+ They are generally the most expensive kind of film to make, the most demanding, and the most prestigious. Directors of features like Steven Spielberg (USA) or Franco Zeferelli (Italy) are much more famous than people who direct commercials or documentaries for television. It takes hundreds of people to make a feature, and usually millions of Rand – although low budget features are possible, like South African Akin Omotso’s G-d is African (released in 2003).

+ A feature film usually has a dramatic story and identifiable characters.

+ Different countries have developed different kinds of feature films: USA – the Hollywood blockbuster, India – the Bollywood musical melodrama, New Zealand – intense art-house films, Europe – the Dogme 95 movement. African film has also developed its own story-telling techniques, some of which derive from the continent’s rich tradition of oral history and indigenous modes of communication.

+ Since the end of the colonial era, films have been produced which respond creatively to the ever shifting conditions and dilemmas the continent faces. This despite the fact that most African countries are poor (which means less money available to finance films) and they lack the necessary infrastructure (transport, film equipment and facilities).

+ Feature films tell dramatic stories in such a powerful way that they often shape how we see each other.

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