Sanders of the River
|Sanders of the River
Alternate title: Bosambo
|Directed by||Zoltán Korda|
|Produced by||Alexander Korda|
|Written by||Lajos Biró
|Editing by||Charles Crichton|
|Running time||98 minutes|
Sanders is a British colonial District Commissioner in 1930s Nigeria. He tries to rule his province and the various tribes comprising the Peoples of the River fairly. He is regarded with respect by some and with fear by others, known as "Sandi" and "Lord Sandi". He has an ally in Bosambo, a literate and educated chief, but when Sanders goes on leave, another chief, King Mofolaba, spreads the rumour that "Sandi is dead." Intertribal war seems inevitable and the situation is made worse by gun-runners and slavers.
"Lord Ferguson" his relief, is unequal to the task, so Sanders returns to restore peace. Bosambo's wife Lilongo is kidnapped, and Bosambo furiously tracks down her kidnappers. Captured himself, he is about to die when a relief force, commanded by Sanders, arrives to save them, and Mofolaba is killed by Bosambo.
- Leslie Banks as Commissioner R.G. Sanders
- Paul Robeson as Bosambo
- Nina Mae McKinney as Lilongo
- Martin Walker as J. Ferguson
- Robert Cochran as Lieutenant Tibbets (as Robert Cochrane)
- Richard Grey as Captain Hamilton
- Tony Wane as King Mofolaba
- Marqués De Portago as Farini
- Eric Maturin as Smith
- Allan Jeayes as Father O'Leary
- Charles Carson as Sir John
- Jomo Kenyatta as Tribal Leader
Paul Robeson disowns the film 
The African-American singer and actor Paul Robeson accepted the role of Bosambo while he was living in London and was engaged in the academic study of the roots of pan-African culture through studies of language and music. He felt that if he could portray the Nigerian leader, Bosambo, with cultural accuracy and dignity, he could help audiences—especially Black audiences—to understand and respect the roots of Black culture. The filmmakers even took an unusual step towards authenticity by sending a film crew on a four-month voyage into remote areas of the African continent to record traditional African dances and ceremonies. These would be interwoven with the studio scenes.
After the filming, Robeson was asked back to the studio for retakes of some scenes. He discovered that the film’s message had been changed during editing; it seemed to justify imperialism and upholding the "White Man's Burden"; the finished film is dedicated to "the handful of white men whose everyday work is an unsung saga of courage and efficiency". Bosambo was changed from a Nigerian leader to a servile lackey of British colonial rule. Robeson was furious and complained:
"The imperialist plot had been placed in the plot during the last days five days of shooting...I was roped into the picture because I wanted to portray the culture of the African people and I committed a faux pas which convinced me that I had failed to weigh the problems of 150,000,000 native Africans...I hate the picture." In 1938, Robeson also added disparagingly: "It is the only film of mine that can be shown in Italy or Germany, for it shows the negro as Fascist states desire him - savage and childish."
Robeson was so disillusioned by the picture that he attempted, but failed, to buy back all the prints to prevent it from being shown.
It was later parodied in the Will Hay film Old Bones of the River, which also featured the characters of Commissioner Sanders, Captain Hamilton and Bosambo seen in this film, but played by different actors.
- "Korda and Empire", BFI screenonline page
- Duberman, Martin, Paul Robeson The Discovery of Africa, 1989, p. 182.
- Duberman, Martin, Paul Robeson The Discovery of Africa, 1989, p. 180.
- Robeson, Susan, A Pictorial Biography of Paul Robeson: The Whole World in His Hands, 1981, p. 73.
- Sanders of the River at the Internet Movie Database
- Sanders of the River is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
- Sanders of the River at AllRovi (Alternate title: Bosambo)