Cinema of South Africa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cinema of South Africa
South Africa film clapperboard.svg
No. of screens857 (2010)[1]
 • Per capita1.9 per 100,000 (2010)[1]
Main distributorsSter-Kinekor 38.8%
Nu-Metro 35.7%
Uip 21.7%[2]
Produced feature films (2016)[3]
Number of admissions (2011)[4]
Gross box office (2016)[3]
TotalR1.14 billion
National filmsR69 million (6%)

The cinema of South Africa refers to the films and film industry of the nation of South Africa. Many foreign films have been produced about South Africa (usually involving race relations).

The first South African film to achieve international acclaim and recognition was the 1980 comedy The Gods Must Be Crazy, written, produced and directed by Jamie Uys. Set in the Kalahari, it told the story about how life in the community of Bushmen is changed when a Coke bottle, thrown out of an airplane, suddenly lands from the sky. Despite the fact that the film presented an incorrect perspective of the Khoisan san people, by framing them as a primitive society enlightened by the modernity of a falling Coke bottle. The late Jamie Uys, who wrote and directed The Gods Must Be Crazy, also had success overseas in the 1970s with his films Funny People and Funny People II, similar to the TV series Candid Camera in the United States. Leon Schuster's You Must Be Joking! films are in the same genre, and were popular among the white population of South Africa during apartheid.

Another high-profile film portraying South Africa in recent years was District 9. Directed by Neill Blomkamp, a native South African, and produced by The Lord of the Rings trilogy director Peter Jackson, the action/science-fiction film depicts a sub-class of alien refugees forced to live in the slums of Johannesburg in what many saw as a creative allegory for apartheid. The film was a critical and commercial success worldwide, and was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, at the 82nd Academy Awards.

Silent Era[edit]

Open-Air-Cinema in Johannesburg.

The first film studio in South Africa, Killarney Film Studios, was established in 1915 in Johannesburg by American business tycoon Isidore W. Schlesinger when he traveled to South Africa against his family's wishes after he read about the discovery of gold in Witwatersrand and was interested in exploring what he could find.[5]

During the 1910s and 1920s, a significant amount of 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 also served as the appropriate location for historical films such as De Voortrekkers (1916) and The Symbol of Sacrifice (1918). American filmmaker Lorimer Johnston directed several films in the area in the late 1910s which starred American actresses Edna Flugrath and Caroline Frances Cooke. Despite the participation of Johnson, Flugrath and Cooke, these were South African productions featuring local actors and stories.

Sound Era[edit]

Sarie Marais, directed by Joseph Albrecht, the first South African sound film and Afrikaans-language sound film, was released in 1931.[6] 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 (1967) reflected a growing trend of shooting in real locations, rather than using backlots.

International Productions[edit]

From 2009, there was an increased use of South African locations and talent by international film studios. US productions like District 9 (2009), Chronicle (2012), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), The Dark Tower (2017), Tomb Raider (2018), The Kissing Booth (2018), Maze Runner: The Death Cure (2018), Escape Room (2019) and Bloodshot (2020) reflect a growing trend by large international houses to use Cape Town, Johannesburg and other South African locations for their film productions.[7][8]

The 3 major South African film distributors[edit]

Listed alongside each distributor are the studios they represent:

Notable South African Filmmakers[edit]

Here are several notable South African filmmaker's that have added to South Africa's cinema history:

  • Joseph Albrecht (1894–1977): A South African director, writer, producer and actor, he is often referred to as "the father of South African film."[6] He directed and co-directed several feature films and shorts such asThe Piccanin's Christmas (1917), Isban; or, The Mystery of the Great Zimbabwe (1920) and South Africa's first sound film Sarie Marais (1931).[6]
  • Jamie Uys (1921-1996): An award winning South Africa director, producer, writer and actor who films include Beautiful People (1999) and the 1981 Grand Prix winner from Festival International du Film de Comedy VeveyThe Gods Must be Crazy (1980).[9]
  • Zola Maseko (born 1967): Swazi born film director who's best known for his filmsThe Foreigner (1994) addressing South African xenophobia[10] and The Life and Times of Sarah Baartman (1998) portraying the life of a Koi woman kidnapped and displayed in 19th century Europe as "the Hottentot Venus".[11] In 2004, Maseko produced his first feature entitled Drum, telling the story of an anti-apartheid journalist in 1950's Johannesburg. This film was the first South Africa film to receive the Golden Stallion of Yennenga at FESPACO in 2005.[12]
  • Gavin Hood (born 1963): a director and filmmaker most famous for his Oscar award winning film Tsotsi (2005) based on the novel of the same name by Athol Fugard. He has achieved international credits and recognition, directing films such as the Polish film In Desert and Wilderness and Marvel's X-Men Origins: Wolverine.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Table 8: Cinema Infrastructure – Capacity". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 24 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  2. ^ "Box Office Report: South Africa (January – December 2013)" (PDF). National Film and Video Foundation South Africa. Retrieved 14 August 2014.
  3. ^ a b "South African Box Office 2016" (PDF). National Film and Video Foundation. Retrieved 15 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Table 11: Exhibition – Admissions & Gross Box Office (GBO)". UNESCO Institute for Statistics. Archived from the original on 24 December 2018. Retrieved 5 November 2013.
  5. ^ Anonymous (21 March 2011). "A History of the South African Film Industry timeline 1895-2003". South African History Online. Retrieved 4 November 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "Joseph Albrecht - ESAT". Retrieved 2 April 2023.
  7. ^ "20 Films shot in South Africa - TravelGround Blog". Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  8. ^ "Did you know that these Hollywood movies were shot in SA?". Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  9. ^ "Lost Continent: Cinema of South Africa - Movie list". MUBI. Retrieved 2 April 2023.
  10. ^ "Who's Who at FESPACO: Zola Maseko". British Broadcasting Corporation. BBC World Service. Archived from the original on 23 August 2007. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  11. ^ Sweet, Matthew (14 November 1999). "The rebirth of the Hottentot Venus". The Independent. Archived from the original on 7 May 2022. Retrieved 31 October 2020.
  12. ^ Knight, James; Manson, Katrina (5 March 2005). "South African Wins Africa's Top Film Prize". The Washington Post. Reuters. Archived from the original on 19 October 2019. Retrieved 9 October 2008.
  13. ^ Gilstrap, Peter; Fleming, Michael (19 July 2007). "Fox says Hood good for 'Wolverine'". Variety

Further reading[edit]

  • Botha, Martin. South African Cinema 1896-2010 . Bristol: Intellect, 2012
  • Botha, Martin. Marginal Lives and Painful Pasts: South African Cinema After Apartheid. Parklands: Genutig!, 2007
  • Botha, Martin and Van Aswegen, Adri. Images of South Africa: The Rise of the Alternative Film. Pretoria: Human Sciences Research Council, 1992.
  • Blignaut, Johan, and Botha, Martin. Movies, Moguls, Mavericks : South African Cinema, 1979-1991 . Cape Town: Showdata, 1992
  • Davis, Peter. In Darkest Hollywood: Exploring the Jungles of Cinema's South Africa. Randburg, South Africa: Raven Press; Athens: Ohio University Press. 1996.
  • Gutsche, Thelma. The History and Social Significance of Motion Pictures in South Africa: 1895 - 1940. Cape Town: H.Timmins, 1972.
  • Le Roux, Andre and Fourie, Lilla. Filmverlede: Geskiedenis van die Suid-Afrikaanse speelfilm. Pretoria: Universiteit van Suid-Afrika, 1981
  • McCluskey, Audrey T. The devil you dance with: film culture in the new South Africa. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009.
  • Maingard, Jacqueline. South African National Cinema . London ;: Routledge, 2007.
  • Tomaselli, Keyan G. Encountering Modernity : Twentieth Century South African Cinemas . Amsterdam: Rozenberg, 2006
  • Balseiro, Isabel., and Ntongela. Masilela. To Change Reels : Film and Culture in South Africa . Detroit, Mich: Wayne State University Press, 2003
  • Modisane, Litheko. South Africa’s Renegade Reels : the Making and Public Lives of Black-Centered Films . 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013
  • Saks, Lucia. Cinema in a Democratic South Africa: The Race for Representation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010.
  • Tomaselli, Keyan G. The Cinema of Apartheid : Race and Class in South African Film . London: Routledge, 1989.
  • Treffey-Goatley, Astrid. South African Cinema After Apartheid: A political-economic exploration. Communicatio: South African Journal for Communication Theory and Research, 36 (1). 37-57. 2010.