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

Facts About Film

african cinema open air theatre

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

Upondo No Nkinsela

Upondo No Nkinsela South African Cinema

KEY CREW & CAST
Director Bernard Buys Cast Ndaba Mhlongo
Producer United Films Masoja Mota
Writer Bernard Buys Joe Mafela
DOP Ivo Pelligrini
Editor N/A
Sound N/A
Y.O.P 1980’s
Running Time 49 min
Language isiZulu
Genre Comedy
SYNOPSIS

Pondo and Nkinsela are two haphazard, dysfunctional friends. They end up going on a series of crazy adventures together which cause havoc everywhere they go. From ruining a bride’s wedding day to destroying a client’s hairdo in a beauty salon to escaping a supposed ghost in a house, the two friends always seem to come out on top.

Upondo No Nkinsela South African Cinema

Upondo No Nkinsela South African Cinema

 

Thunder Valley

Thunder Valley South African Cinema
KEY CREW & CAST
Director Tony Cunningham Cast Mandla Ngcoya
Producer Coastal Films Debra Ngcoya
Writer N/A Kululu Phewa
DOP N/A Max Mkhwanazi
Editor N/A Roy Dlamini
Sound Wally Booysen John Madlada
Y.O.P 1980’s Emmanuel Shangase
Running Time 69 min
Language isiZulu
Genre Action Drama
SYNOPSIS

John, Sipho and Thandi are once more spending the summer holidays together at Uncle Joshua’s cottage. But despite their best efforts to stay out of mischief this year, the three manage to encounter a group of crooks hiding out in a supposed abandoned shack on the river.

To their great surprise, Benson has escaped from prison yet again. But this time around, the convict teams up with the youths to save the day and defeat the crooks holding a large cache of stolen weapons.

Thunder Valley South African Cinema

Thunder Valley South African Cinema

The Comedians

The Comedians South African Cinema
KEY CREW & CAST
Director Japie Van Der Merwe Cast Moses Makhathini
Producer Gary Van Der Merwe Matthews Monica
Writer N/A Hector Mathanda
DOP Japie van der Merwe Ernest Dlamini
Editor N/A Delani Dlamini
Sound Gert Smith / Piet Buys Sibongile Dlamini
Y.O.P 1980’s Isaac Xaba
Running Time 86 min Stanley Phama
Language isiZulu Chipa Molawa
Genre Comedy
 SYNOPSIS

When Ace Bhona uses his friend’s magic ring under false pretences to make himself a wealthy man, his greed and desire for more soon becomes uncontrollable.

He hires a group of thugs to steal the ring from his friend, hoping to possess the ring for himself once and for all. But the friend has a trick up his sleeve and counters Bhona’s greed with a curse.

Bhona awakes the following day to discover that his ill-gotten wealth and possessions have turned to dust, with the police knocking on his door seeking justice for the crimes he has recently committed.

The Comedians South African Cinema

The Comedians South African Cinema

Run For Your Life

Run For Your Life South African Cinema
KEY CREW & CAST
Director Run For Your Life South African Cinema Cast Emanuel Shangase
Producer Pedro Dippenaar Eddie de Croes
Writer Tommy Rothig Vusi Gudazi
DOP Ben Du Plessis Pepsi Mabizela
Editor Ben Du Plessis Doris Smith
Sound Steve Hand
Y.O.P 1980’s
Running Time 62 min
Language English / isiZulu
Genre Thriller
 SYNOPSIS

While out on a cross-country run in unfamiliar territory, two friends  stumble upon an illegal drug operation in the woods. Soon taken hostage by the notorious drug-lord, they face the threat of becoming drug slaves themselves. Forced to work the plantation for the man known as “Cobra”, the two friends will have to rely on one another and use their wits if they wish to defeat the armed guards holding them captive.

Run For Your Life South African Cinema

Run For Your Life South African Cinema